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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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January 16, 2006

The Walter Winchell of Montclair: Guest Writer Debra Galant on the Joys of Local News Blogging

"It’s satisfying, when you find yourself standing in a long line in the new $8.6 million parking deck on a Friday night because there are only two pay stations, to be able to whip out your cell phone, take a picture and then post it on the blog – and to have the mayor write in almost immediately..."

Special to PressThink

The Walter Winchell of Montclair

by Debra Galant
Founder & editor-in-chief,

I grew up, the daughter of a journalist, just outside the Beltway, and I remember looking forward to the Father-Daughter Ball at the National Press Club as the high point of my year. I remember nothing about the ball itself, nothing at all; but years later, I met someone else who also went to the Father-Daughter Balls as a girl, and she glowed with the same memory. Was it the Freudian anticipation of dancing with our dads? Did they gorge us on chocolate? Was it dressing up? (Oh, surely not in my case.) Or was it simply the dark paneled seriousness of the place, the temporary admission to what even a child could see was a temple of power.

I experienced that same sense of institutional awe years later, when I started freelancing for The New York Times, and one of my editors gave me a walk around the place. Those historic front pages on the walls, the private dining room, legendary men in the same elevator I was riding in: it all combined to create a well-burnished patina of authority and prestige. And over the next decade I discovered that even the lowliest freelancer could lever a tiny fraction of that authority, and by doing so, have doors opened and phone calls promptly returned.

In other words, I have dwelled in, or near, or at least been somewhat associated with, some of the most hallowed halls of journalism.

Now, on the other hand, I dwell in the journalistic equivalent of a roadhouse – a neighborhood newsblog – where I stand behind the counter, a dirty dishtowel over my shoulder, barking at the rowdies in the corner to keep it down, serving up mugs of draught and occasionally pulling up my skirts to show a little ankle.

We call this saloon Barista of Bloomfield Ave. or Baristanet. It is one of the growing number of neighborhood news sites, unconnected to any established newspapers, that serve up local news in a blog format. These include H2oTown, the New Haven Independent, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn and Pittsburgh Dish, although they’re not all as disreputable as ours. We have a group of commenters, equivalent to a small motorcycle gang, which proudly calls itself the “eight trolls” and likes to snarl at soft-hearted liberals. I know some daily readers of Baristanet, who are afraid to comment for fear of being pounced on. And there are some threads on our site that actually make me blush.

This was not exactly what I was setting out to accomplish when I decided, in the spring of 2004—inspired by a blog meetup in South Orange, NJ where I met Jeff Jarvis—to start a hyperlocal blog for three towns in northern New Jersey.

I pictured it more like a café, hence the name “Barista”—the job of one who serves cappuccino—“of Bloomfield Ave.” I pictured recapturing the readers I’d lost when the New York Times decided to offer my column to another writer. Which I did. I pictured making a ton of money. Which I may. I saw the product, quite clearly, but I didn’t yet see my readers. I didn’t see how they would emerge as individual personalities, with opinions of their own, and how this would alter both the product and my experiment.

When I try to explain Baristanet to someone who’s never heard of it before, I often say “it’s like your weekly small town newspaper meets the Daily Show.” We—and I say we because I work with two equal partners, Laura Eveleth and Liz George—write about many of the same small-town events that those birdcage liners do, but with a jaundiced eye. We won’t, for example, print a picture of a big fake check unless we’re making fun of it.

Irreverence—or snarkiness, as it is called in the blogosphere—is nothing new. In fact, it’s the lingua franca of this medium. I knew from the start that irreverence would be part of our brand.

But it’s unusual for a local paper. The question was, how would that attitude play in our own backyard? And a second, related, question: would it alienate advertisers? In other words, could you do a Wonkette or a Daily Show in the same place where you live, shop and take your kids to school?

I also knew from the start, just based on the demographics, that our readers were smart. Most are college educated. Many hold advanced degrees. About half of the New York Times staff lives within my coverage area. Still, you don’t know ahead of time when the irreverence will hit the fan.

The first time it did—big—was after I overheard a mom at the community pool grumbling about the money she spent on dues and shrugging in the direction of a group of lifeguards, all sitting around a table, playing cards. I hadn’t thought about it until then, but these kids did spend an inordinate amount of time hanging around, nowhere near the pool, laughing and having fun. At the time, there was only one lifeguard watching the pool, and another chair was empty. There were only a couple of children in the pool.

I took a picture of the lifeguards playing cards and wrote the headline, It’s So Much More Fun Watching Each Other. A friend of mine got so mad he’s barely talked to me since. And the lifeguards, and their friends, had no sense of humor whatsoever.

I’ve also found Montclair’s liberal elite to be profoundly humor-impaired at times, especially during the 2004 presidential race. And I say that as a lifelong Democrat.

But for the most part, we think it’s the humor, and the quality of the writing, that keeps the readers coming back. That’s what always seems to surprise, and endear, people who discover us anew. That they can get a local product with as much sophistication—in design as well as writing—as anything produced out of New York.

But there’s also the real-time aspect of what can be accomplished by instant publishing. Like telling readers about kids selling lemonade to raise money for Katrina right now, or reporting a high school bomb scare minutes after it happened-– or even just providing an up-to-date community resource for closings and cancellations in the case of snow.

As I recall it, the day that we first went over 1,000 hits was the day that an electrical line fell down on a street near a local shopping plaza and started a fire. A photographer named Scot Surbeck, who’d been reading our blog, took a picture and sent it. Then later that night, there was another electrical fire a few blocks away. And this time, several people sent us tips and pictures. They were all standing there in the street, watching the night sky turn white and wondering what to do. These are the things that mean nothing, or little, in the grand scheme, but which, in the moment, are completely fascinating.

After that, if there was a blackout, or an explosion, or a murder, people would go to us immediately to see if we had it. And if we didn’t, they’d send us a tip.

And in addition to all that there’s the conversation-– like last week’s 245-comment debate on New Jersey’s planned indoor smoking ban. In our better moments, Baristanet is more like a good dinner party than either a coffee shop or a roadside tavern and I, as the Barista, am the perfect raconteur and host.

What makes a good dinner party? It’s not the food. It’s not the candlelight or the quality of the stemware. It’s what intelligence you pick up at the party, and how amusingly it is delivered. It doesn’t matter nearly as much if the food is fresh and local as if the intelligence is fresh and local. It’s also the crackling repartee, delivered in online form as comments.

I’ll give you an example. And this is a story that pre-dates Baristanet, but when it happened I thought, I wish I wrote for the local newspaper. If I wrote for the local newspaper, this is exactly the kind of story I would write. This is the story that, in a way, inspired Baristanet.

This involves the same pool where the lifeguards were all hanging around playing cards, only a year or two earlier. After a long political battle, the pool had just been built, but because of construction delays, it didn’t open until the last day of July. With the entire swimming season compressed into one month, tempers flared, especially on those afternoons—and there were a lot of them—when the pool closed for late afternoon thunderstorms.

One Friday afternoon, with not a cloud on the horizon, after I’d put in a full day of writing, I walked to the pool and was astonished to find it closed.

There had been no thunder; I’d been writing the whole afternoon on my front porch, half a mile from the pool. The parking lot at the pool was empty, but one by one cars arrived. Moms and kids spilled out, their arms overflowing with towels and pool bags. We all stared forlornly at the chain-link fence and wondered why the pool was closed and where the lifeguards had gone.

Well, somebody said, they must have closed the pool for thunder and made everyone go home. The policy was 20 minutes. So if we kept waiting, the lifeguards would come back and re-open the pool. We waited 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, longer. No lifeguards, no pool manager.

People pulled out cell phones, called town hall, the mayor, members of the pool’s board of trustees. Nobody knew what was going on, and people were furious: me more than anyone. That’s the moment when I imagined writing about this for a local paper. It was exactly the kind of thing that was never covered in the local paper—it didn’t, after all, happen at a town council meeting or come from a press release—and it was exactly the kind of thing that everybody talked about.

When the manager finally did appear, hours later, he offered no excuses and no explanation. There’d been thunder. The pool was closed.

We found out the real story months later, after it was discovered that the pool manager had been embezzling money from the pool. It turns out that hot August afternoon, he’d heard some distant thunder and decided to close the pool and take his entire lifeguard staff out to the movies.

These are the stories that people want to know. They still want to know why the pool is closed on a sunny August afternoon. These are the stories that you almost never get in the weekly local newspaper, which is typically staffed by 20-something journalists straight out of school and with no ties, or real sources, in the community.

They also want to know if the hot new restaurant that just opened is any good, whether their neighbors are also furious about new leaf raking regulations, and why the 6:18 from Penn Station was being held up in Bloomfield, and not allowed to continue on into Glen Ridge.

In fact, in the case of the 6:18, it was nothing, which we reported.

Passengers aboard the 6:18 train from Penn Station were held up in Bloomfield for about five minutes tonight due to reported police activity at the Glen Ridge station. According to the police, train personnel thought they saw someone on the tracks. Nobody, however, was found.

As is typical when we run stories like this, the critics are ready with their favorite line: “must be a slow news day in Baristaville.” When you live by minutia, you die by minutia, and occasionally the wisecrackers point that out. As it happens, though, the reason we knew about the 6:18 from Penn Station was because a CBS news producer Blackberried us about it from the train. And a number of other journalists on that train came to our defense in comments.

I was on that train too and logged onto baristanet when i got home to find out what had happened. it’s called local news—and though maybe in the scheme of things not terribly critical — it’s nice to know what’s going on.
Posted by: mary | Mar 9, 2005 10:28:38 AM

when there’s cops on the tracks, you wanna know what’s up.
Posted by: dana jennings | Mar 9, 2005 9:17:19 AM

It’s a tremendous amount of fun to be the Barista of Bloomfield Ave., or as I sometimes call myself, “the Walter Winchell of Montclair.” It’s fun to be a professional smart aleck, to be a big fish in a small pond, to cut through the exasperating bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. It’s satisfying, when you find yourself standing in a long line in the new $8.6 million parking deck on a Friday night because there are only two pay stations, to be able to whip out your cell phone, take a picture and then post it on the blog – and to have the mayor write in almost immediately with a promise that he’ll look into it.

Power of the press? Maybe. But not power of any press with newspaper covers going back past the Titanic. Not the power of anyone with a special press pass, or access. Just the power of anyone with a cell phone and a computer, who has also taken the time and energy for 20 months to build and nurture a readership – even a sometimes rowdy one.

And I have to admit that the power is all that much sweeter because we created it ourselves, from scratch, just as my father did 40 years ago with his business partner Lou Rothschild, when they set up a newsletter to cover the government regulation of the food industry right at the beginning of the food additive era.

My father did become a wealthy man by becoming a publisher, because he and Lou chose their niche well. They were solid reporters, good businessmen and wrote with total objectivity. Their product was absolutely indispensable to food industry lawyers, Naderites, academics and the regulators themselves.

My dad follows the comings and goings of Baristaville all winter from the laptop in his den in Florida and though he doesn’t know any of the players, he still finds it compelling and funny.

Like my father, I’m a publisher. But I’m not sure I’m a journalist. Journalism is nonfiction. It belongs with history and politics and business and current affairs. I read, and write, novels. I’m more interested in why the pool is closed tight on a sunny day than in the town government’s master plan. I’m more interested in a little girl’s enchantment by the National Press Club 40 years ago than I am by the powerful men and women of the National Press Club today, and the powerful men and women they cover.

Mainly, I want to make you laugh— and to get paid for it.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links.


Debra Galant, former Jersey columnist for The New York Times, is founder and editor-in-chief of Her first novel, “Rattled,” a comedy of bad manners set in the rapidly developing New Jersey countryside, is coming out from St. Martin’s Press next month and is a Book Sense pick for February.

Who said the suburbs are boring? Not in Baristaville.

Here are some of the Barista’s favorite posts from the past year and half, in no particular order: dissing the Girl Scoutsan error-studded letter from the principalbad karma in the Whole Foods parking lotcivil disobedience at Bloomfield Higha wacky suggestion for deer controla bile-spewing hip-hop band in Glen Ridgea strange wrinkle in the Nutley pizza wars$300 colanders a coconut virtuoso Soprano sightings and everything we wrote last April 1.

Tim Porter replies to this post, which made him recall his first small town newspaper job when “we all lived among the people we wrote about.” He thinks “all reporters have had these feelings (at least I hope they have). But, somehow over the decades, somehow in the march toward bland professionalism (even at the smallest of papers) we drove the fun out of journalism - both for our readers and for ourselves.” Then Jeff Jarvis responds to Porter.

Stephen Baker at Businessweek’s Blogspotting: “In a perfect world, Baristanet would spur our staid hometown newspaper, The Montclair Times, to liven up its act. My fear, though, (as a former weekly newspaper editor) is that the blog will kill it—leaving no one to cover the boring but necessary newspaper-of-record jobs like covering school boards and planning commissions.”

Writing about this post, Jon Fine, Business Week’s Changing World ‘o Media columnist, asks: Is this the new local newspaper?

Also, Paul Bass wrote a thoughtful piece for the New Haven Advocate in September about how Baristanet inspired him to set up a local newsblog of his own.

More information on the Glen Ridge pool manager was dredged up by Philip Read of the Star Ledger, who wrote about it in January, 2004. The story is not available online.

Ed Sanders, the Glen Ridge pool manager accused of cashing the paychecks of employees and pocketing the money, was suspended with pay from his teaching job at Montclair High School yesterday.

“He was notified today that he had to go home,” said Montclair High School Principal Elaine Davis.

Sanders, 41, who lives in Glen Ridge, was charged last week with three counts of theft, forgery and misappropriation of entrusted property, said Glen Ridge Police Chief John Magnier. He was freed on $25,000 bond Friday, and his case has been referred to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Magnier said.

Sanders is accused of stealing about $14,500 from the pool, which opened July 31, by cashing the paychecks of student lifeguards after they had returned to school. Police said the lifeguards did not know they were still on the payroll or that Sanders had cashed their checks. A police investigation began in December after members of the pool’s finance committee noticed some discrepancies in the pool’s accounts and brought the concerns to police. Sanders said he is awaiting his day in court.

Liz George, partner in Baristanet, did a guest post at PressThink, a review of (Nov. 30, 2005) Baristanet was also featured in PressThink’s Are You Ready for a Brand New Beat? (April 11, 2005)

In October of 2005, Tom Grubisich wrote “I’m skeptical, show me” account for Online Journalism Review. “Community news sites get a lot of hype, but can they produce quality journalism?”

See also From citizen journalism myth to citizen journalism realities in Editors Weblog. (Dec. 29, 2005) has a fine list of Local Citizen Journalism News and Information Blogs. Organized by region.

Glaser Goes Up a Level. Online Journalism Review columnist, PressThink guest author, and new media chronicler Mark Glaser—as good as we have on this beat—will be debuting a new blog at the PBS site on Wednesday Jan. 18.

It’s called Media Shift ( and, according to the network’s announcement “will offer a continuing look at how digital media such as blogs, RSS, podcasts, citizen journalism, wikis, news aggregators and video repositories are altering the way we live, play and work.” Glaser had been in negotiation with PBS for some time, so it’s good to see the deal is done. PressThink caught up with Glaser, and tossed him a few questions about his plans:

JR: What does “Media Shift” mean? And as one of my favorite professors taught me to say when any author spoke of a “shift,” that would be from what to what?

Mark Glaser: There is a lot of shifting going on, technologically and in readership and viewership of media. In TV, it’s about time-shifting with TiVo or having content on mobile devices or backpack journalists using digital cameras. In newspapers, it’s about readership going from print to online and news sites brimming with multimedia and citizen journalism. In radio, it’s about kicking the commercial habit with satellite radio and Net radio and podcasting as a new form that’s of and by the people.

But bigger still is the shift from top-down control of media to control from the bottom, from the people, who are tired of corporate ownership and meddling and just want to be served, want to have a greater voice. And from mass market hits for music and movies and TV shows to smaller interest groups all along the Long Tail.

You can’t hear a media exec speak anymore, without the word “shift” coming up again and again, because the ground below them is shifting uncomfortably.

JR: Obviously you saw something that wasn’t being done that Media Shift will be able to do. What is that thing?

Mark Glaser: MediaShift will look at the cultural and societal impact of the shift in media from top-down to Everyman and Everywoman control. There are indeed a lot of blogs covering this to some extent, and most I think are obsessed with how old media is going down in flames and the business buyouts and ramifications.

My interest is in the people themselves, not the journalists, but the “former audience,” the people who are taking control, interacting and creating media in new ways. I want to tell their stories rather than just my own story or my own observations or what the CEO or VP of such-and-such media company thinks. And I want my readers to join in whenever and however possible so it is a group endeavor, citizen media style.

And honestly, Jay, I’m not sure what MediaShift will become. I’m sure when you launched PressThink you thought it would be one thing, and then it became something much different.

JR: That’s true. Thanks, Mark.

Glen Greenwald steps in between PressThink and The New Republic’s The Plank: “In some ways, The Plank is the national headquarters for petty journalistic elitism and the fallacy of credentialism.” See: Invasion of the dirty masses. Greenwald thinks the blogosphere is more meritocratic than the meritocratic elite that speaks its mind at the TNR blog.

If that interests you, then see also Ezra Klein’s reply, and the comments thereon. “… a breathtakingly misguided attack.”

Daniel Glover at National Journal criticizes “the conservative bloggers handpicked by the Republican Party to cover the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito” and to meet with party big wigs:

Why? Because the content they wrote from Washington, while being feted by the Republican Party, did not pack the same punch as their normal fare. Too often, they sounded more like unofficial stenographers for the GOP than the passionate, independent watchdogs that they normally are. The bloggers… let pass a rare opportunity to grill senators and top officials about topics that matter to the bloggers. They let their sources set the agenda.

As I understand Glover’s point, he’s not criticizing them for going to DC, but what they wrote. He thinks they lost their nerve when they were welcomed in. See this report, and this one.

New York Magazine cover story (Jan. 16, 2006 issue): A Guy Named Craig. “How a schlumpy IBM refugee found you your apartment … and now finds himself killing your newspaper.” It contains this:

At the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors last spring, two panelists at a session on the crisis in the industry flashed a slide of Newmark and asked the editors how many of them knew who Craig Newmark was. A faint show of hands. Craigslist? A few more.

“The shocking thing is that this was someone who was not only a threat to steal their business but was in the process of doing it,” says Jay Rosen, a blogger (the name of his blog is PressThink) and professor…”

I was talking about this event, as reported and interpreted by Tim Porter.

Joseph Epstein—scholar, critic, essayist of the old school—asks Are Newspapers Doomed? in Commentary. It includes:

My father certainly took it seriously. I remember asking him in 1952, as a boy of fifteen, about whom he intended to vote for in the presidential election between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I think I’ll wait to see which way Lippmann is going.”

The degree of respect then accorded the syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann is hard to imagine in our own time.

I’ll be teaching a class in news bloging this semester; and we will probably be producing some special reports. Watch for more about this in the weeks ahead.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 16, 2006 3:51 PM   Print


First!!!!!! :-)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 16, 2006 4:03 PM | Permalink

I don't know if I would use the word troll, because ultimately, at the other end of those posts of yours there is a person truly at rage with the press.

Rage, rage against the lying of the write! :-)

Seriously, catrina - your points are well-taken. And I agree with you, the particular story is, in and of itself, a minor one. But when the New York Times is calling an E-4 specialist an "officer," when the New York Times is running photos of artillery shells and calling them "remains of US missiles," when the NYT is publishing graphics asserting that a 1/4 inch-thick piece of metal bolted onto a Hummer can defeat a 155mm IED that would blow the entire vehicle off the road, when major media outlets still don't know the difference between a soldier and a marine, when they are reporting that white phosphorus is a "chemical weapon," when they falsely report that the Army sends soldiers "straight from boot camp to the front lines," when the Times is publishing articles by people who don't know what a "Medal of Honor" is (the Times thought it was an award for songwriting), when the Times writes that the Administration has not been publicizing its war heroes (despite dozens of press releases on people like Brian Chontosh and Jose Piralta), then it's pretty damning evidence that the lack of basic knowledge of things military is screwing up coverage. And in a couple of cases, such as the white phosphorus story, their incompetence affected the national discourse in some very significant ways.

Look, the newspapers have a problem. And it's largely a problem of recruiting demographics. Our national media is headquartered in New York City. Seven of the ten zipcodes with the LOWEST rates of military service per capita are within the immediate environs of all three network headquarters, the Journal, the Times, Newsweek, Fox, and Time Warner.

That's going to seep into coverage. It does again and again.

My blog, Countercolumn, focuses on that disconnect - the cultural disconnect between the media and the military, because I've got one foot in both camps. (Well, I write commercial stuff for a living now. I was a Time, Inc. reporter before I went to Iraq.)

I don't hate the press. I love the press. My best friends are all soldiers, musicians, or pressies. But I hate incompetent coverage. And it wasn't until I went to Iraq, lived there for a year, got satellite TV and internet, and I could see how bad the coverage was, that I really became ticked. The media was simply not serving the public well. And it was a lot more than human error making its way into the copy.

I'm here banging on the table to tell people like Lovelady and Rosen that the media has a problem so big you can drive a truck through it. My focus is on war coverage, natch, but there's lots of spillover. (Don't get me started on the failures of my own discipline, the financial press, during the late 1990s, and prior to the Savings and Loan crisis. Actually, the screwed up financial press is worth a thread in itself.)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 16, 2006 4:04 PM | Permalink

Jason your list of press faux pas is familiar. Most are as mischaracterized by you and the others repeating the list as you claim the papers are. Are you saying the house wasn't bombed? Who cares about an unexploded Canadian shell? It's a Pakistani with a soveigneer from somwhere. The press really doesn't know what the MOH is. I've heard all of this nutty fallacies before. I see nothing has changed around here. Pity, that.

Posted by: George Boyle at January 16, 2006 8:30 PM | Permalink

Ah, George, somebody had to do it, eh? The "essence of the truth" argument. "False but accurate."

Tell me, if you read something from a near-illiterate -- cant spil ur punkchewate an telin al tha truf wit no captal leturs -- do you give it any credence? Minimal, eh? If any... it's exactly the same thing. When you make a major mistake in a domain I know, I stop reading. Oh, those idiots again. Your TRVTH goes completely unheard. You've wasted your time, and the money of your sponsors.

And that's not even counting the times when you insult people without even knowing you've done so, just because you don't have any idea of the background of the situation. Every time you do that you lose audience... and you never figure out why.

"The essence" is an excuse, an argument made by a lazy elitist -- you don't have to work; you're right because you're Anointed to Declare the TRVTH. And it doesn't work, won't work, and can't work. If you can't get the background right you've lost your audience, and it doesn't matter whether the rest of it is true or not. And if you maintain that attitude you're eventually going the way of the coelecanth, still around in small numbers but nobody wants it for dinner.


Posted by: Ric Locke at January 16, 2006 9:12 PM | Permalink

I'm here banging on the table to tell people like Lovelady and Rosen that the media has a problem so big you can drive a truck through it. -- Jason.

You're right, Jason. The media (whatever that is) does have a problem so big you can drive a truck through it.
But that problem has nothing to do with the Boston Globe publishing a story exposing a local councilman as a fool on page b2. (The elementary fact that to report something is not to endorse it has apparently escaped you.)
And the problem that the press does have will not be solved by a media that reflexively prints military press releases from Iraq -- or from the Pentagon, or from the White House.
We don't need more mindless cheerleading. We need more dispassionate analysis.
For most of us, one John Burns or one Michael Ware or one Jill Carroll is worth 10,000 military flacks. (And I say that as a former military flack.)
Meantime, a gentle reminder -- this thread is supposed to be about Debra Galant and Montclair, NJ.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 16, 2006 9:40 PM | Permalink

You forgot the transitional sentence, Steve. "I’ve also found Montclair’s liberal elite to be profoundly humor-impaired at times, especially during the 2004 presidential race. And I say that as a lifelong Democrat."

My favorite moment: "And I have to admit that the power is all that much sweeter because we created it ourselves, from scratch, just as my father did 40 years ago with his business partner Lou Rothschild, when they set up a newsletter to cover the government regulation of the food industry right at the beginning of the food additive era."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 16, 2006 10:21 PM | Permalink


I went and looked at Baristanet for a moment. It looks great... but it means nothing to me, and that's the way it should be. I live in a small town in Texas, and will probably never visit the place Ms. Galant knows and loves.

The connection is this -- if I posted something there, pretending it had some relevance to the people who live in that area, I'd be sneered at and ignored, and that's the way it should be. I'm totally ignorant of the area, the people, the culture, even the weather. The same thing will happen if Debra tries to post something on a (putative) local blog that means something to me.

Communities are not just geographic, though, especially in the Internet age, where people can belong to many communities, not just the one around their house. Communities can be communities of interest, whether it be for hobbies or just from commonality of knowledge. And when you, or I, say something about a community, and the members of that community see ignorance, they either don't pay much attention or reject it utterly. Debra's readers won't care about my advice for clearing mesquite. There are many people posting on baristanet who don't have valid advice for me on the subject, either.

The Press is unique. The Press needs to be able to talk to all communities, whether they be geographic or intellectual. We all know they can't have deep knowledge of all communities, and we're prepared to gloss that over and forgive it. But when the Press pulls a howler, then refuses to acknowledge the criticism of the pertinent community, the members of that community get a bad taste in their mouth; and, since any given person may be a member of many communities, an offense to one may spill over into others and probably will.

Debra Galant doesn't have all that much trouble with background and context -- it comes with the territory, so to speak, and if she really does have a live community there any errors will get fed back and corrected quickly. You don't have that luxury, so you have to work harder -- or else you have to kiss it off, to declare that "false but accurate" is good enough, to talk about the "essence of the story". The problem with doing that --

In the specific instance, you show me a busted up house and a couple of people in native costume. In front is an inert practice round from a 155mm howitzer propped up on a sandbag -- and you tell me it's part of a missile launched from a predator drone. Hmph, I say. The house is a set, somewhere out in the desert east of LA; the two people are Moishe Horowitz and his son David, hired from Central Casting at scale and costumed, and as soon as the photo shoot was over the whole crew went to Palm Springs for dinner. The whole thing is just another staged Bush-bash. No? Tell me where you established enough credibility to contradict that. More important, tell me how I can believe that you did enough checking to see that it wasn't something equally fake, equally staged. You can't, because you haven't established the credibility or the diligence; in fact, your egregious error and total failure to check something easy tells me you were too lazy to check the hard stuff, either.

Was the trout good?


Posted by: Ric Locke at January 16, 2006 10:33 PM | Permalink

Are you saying the house wasn't bombed?

Hmmm. Yep. I could say precisely that.

By the way, which of my examples, precisely, do you believe are "mischaracterized?" Most of them are criticisms I initiated myself, and as far as I know, are not widely circulated, (except for the NY Times running the picture of the intact arty shell and calling it the remains of a US missile - a true howler if there ever was one.)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 16, 2006 11:03 PM | Permalink

Hate to tell you, Ric, but I've never been to Palm Springs, and I don't know who the the hell the you in your post refers to.

"You showed you a busted up house and a couple of people in native costume" ?

Who is You ? It sure as hell ain't me.

As for David Horowitz, everybody's favorite left-wing activist recently turned right-wing activist, have you checked out your accusations about him with him ?

You really ought to. I'm pretty sure he'd raise a stink if he knew.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 16, 2006 11:14 PM | Permalink

But that problem has nothing to do with the Boston Globe publishing a story exposing a local councilman as a fool on page b2.

No. But the Boston Globe failing to publish a story about the local councilman trying to pass off porn pictures as evidence of US atrocities has a lot to do with "that problem." Specifically, that too many newsrooms have no idea what they're looking at.

We don't need more mindless cheerleading. We need more dispassionate analysis.

I agree with you there. But my point is, unfortunately, that the major newsrooms are so ill-informed about the military that they are incapable of performing dispassionate analysis.

The republic relies on them to fulfill that role. They're letting us down.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 16, 2006 11:15 PM | Permalink

I think anyone who has regularly read Jason's blog since near its inception knows that Jason is equally critical of the military as he is of the press. He also gives praise where praise is due in regards to both the press and the military.

It seems to me he is not asking for newsroom staffers who "reflexively print military press releases from Iraq -- or from the Pentagon, or from the White House." He is simply asking for the national media to staff their organizations with journalists or editors with the expertise necessary to quickly and accurately identify military-related errors, misunderstandings (such as the purpose and context of a specific operation), and mischaracterizations (ascribing authority to an officer or witness that they do not possess) that would (at least should) render that reporting unworthy of professional respect. Such a person doesn't even need to be a full-timer.

And finally, if you regularly read in particular the daily press releases from Iraq on the Department of Defense website, they are hardly "cheerleading" pieces--rather, they are extremely dry and dispassionate. However, on the front page stories you will find articles specifically highlighting the activities and successes of military personnel and Administration officials, in addition to the challenges facing military personnel on the battle field. But it is only natural to expect the Administration and military to be an advocate for its own people, policies and actions despite the challenges being faced.

Whether the national media is writing an article reporting, criticizing, or praising military-related affairs, asking them to possess the discipline in-house to identify any problems that would reduce the credibility of military-related journalistic product seems perfectly appropriate, as it would be with any other subject.

Best Regards,


Posted by: Shawn in Tokyo at January 16, 2006 11:51 PM | Permalink

Who is You ? It sure as hell ain't me.

::shrug:: Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

But, in fact, I'm railing against an attitude that you tend strongly to defend, so I identify you with it.

Ms. Galant has context running out her ears. She's deeply familiar with her subject, and knows she'll get called if she makes a mistake. She also knows that, because she's been diligent in the past, her mistakes will be forgiven, even laughed at in a communitarian way, and she'll be given the benefit of the doubt.

And she's gaining audience. What she distributes is useful to people, so they're anxious to consume it.

We don't need more mindless cheerleading. We need more dispassionate analysis.

The first sentence is true, although you pat yourself on the back entirely too much. The second... is the hole, and the truck's in fourth-high and upshifting. Opinion is cheap; there are, what, six million blogs and counting? "Analysis" is almost as cheap. Both are useless without facts in the background. And if the "facts" you have are in "fact" false, your analysis is not just worthless, it has negative value.

The specific story Jason, George, and I have been on about is an example. It's an absolutely useless story, of no value to anyone except as an example of Press error. The only thing I know about that story is that the reporter was either clueless or lying about at least one point central to it, and that the layers and layers and layers of editors and fact-checkers between reporter and publication were either also lying, out to lunch, down the pub doing shooters, or somewhere other than doing their jobs. That being the case, I can't draw any conclusion whatever about any other aspect of the story -- and if you pretend to be able to, I know I can't trust you, either, so your analysis is worthless to me as well.

No, I don't think you should mindlessly repeat press releases from anybody. But if the Press is going to present its work as analysis, it had damned well better show what it's analyzing. That's what's missing, not "dispassion".


Posted by: Ric Locke at January 17, 2006 12:07 AM | Permalink

If you want to call yourself the Walter Winchell of Montclair, that's fine with me, I guess.

I wouldn't want to be known as the king of the gossip mongers, the person who made popular our culture of celebrity.

I don't like the idea of prying into people's private sex lives, and making stuff up about them.

I'd like to think I would not have supported Joe McCarthy and his hunt for Reds under the bed, as did Winchell.

In his heyday, Walter Winchell was as famous as any reporter ever has been, but he's not -- or at least he shouldn't be -- anyone's role model.

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at January 17, 2006 12:25 AM | Permalink

Winchell was far from perfect, but he sure did perk up the prose. From Wikipedia:

But Winchell had a style that others found impossible to mimic. He disdained the flowerly language that had characterized newspaper columns in the past. Instead, he wrote in a kind of telegraph style filled with slang and incomplete sentences. Creating his own shorthand language, Winchell was responsible for introducing into the American vernacular such now-familiar words and phrases as "scram," "pushover," and "belly laughs." He wrote many quips such as "Nothing recedes like success," and "I usually get my stuff from people who promised somebody else that they would keep it a secret."

Posted by: Debbie Galant at January 17, 2006 12:48 AM | Permalink

My view of Winchell comes through Neil Gabler's book. Certainly he is not presented as role model material.

The Barista of Bloomfield, the saloon keeper, the Winchell of Montclair, the dinner party hostess, the human switchboard, the outraged mom with a printing press, the novelist looking for laughs from live readers... are different phases in which Debra presents herself.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 17, 2006 12:54 AM | Permalink

So, if a blog has an error, no worries, because blog readers will make corrections and everything's cool.

But if the New York Times shows a photo with erroneous information on its website (and apparently only on its website, since no one saw it in print) it's a mark of a lying and unrealiable medium even though the TIMES corrected it.

Thanks, Ric and Jason, you've lived up to expectations one more time. It's not the first time you've taken up bandwidth to worry over a journalistic sin that has already been corrected.

As Steve noted - as entire threads at PressThink has expounded - there are any number of truly grievous journalistic sins to consider. But the failure of the Times to meet the somone's anal-retentative fixation on military nomenclature standards is perhaps better served somewhere else.

Meanwhile, back at Baristanet -

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 1:03 AM | Permalink

But you've missed the most fun of all, Deer Graduette.

Posted by: Tom at January 17, 2006 1:05 AM | Permalink

Actually, Tim, some of the comments are pretty good, a fair mix of opinions. I particularly liked the guy whose response to recruiters visiting local schools with handouts and free pencils said he fought in Bosnia for a pen. But it was a very good pen.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 1:07 AM | Permalink

Dave: Yes, I liked that too. It was a Bic pen, after all.

But then, we musn't attribute the quality of comments to the blog's author, right?

Posted by: Siyphus at January 17, 2006 1:11 AM | Permalink

No, but the blog's author's words certainly provided the inspiration for the thoughts expressed by the readers.

Which, I assume, was the idea.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 1:45 AM | Permalink

Baristanet (imho) could benefit from some sort of tagging system - keeping ed/op and news apart as has been done for a while. It would also help with keeping track of things (like the lifeguards, who I'm now curious about, even though I don't live there ;)

Or maybe that's not their thing. It's still far too early to tell which way is right or if each 'area' will need a different approach, cutting out the cookie-cutter loving penny pinchers - aka big media.

2006 is gonna be an important year. A lot of people aren't talking about it yet, but Chi-Town Daily News - aka The Chicago Daily News - has popped up on the radar and is looking good.

Best of luck to Galant, Williams, Orren, Dougherty - all of us. We have a long row to till, but it will be worth it. Some of us are already bearing fruit. It's spreading...

Posted by: kpaul at January 17, 2006 7:50 AM | Permalink

Ms. Galant forgets to mention one thing: those "8 trolls" she mentions were in fact tagged as such by another, constantly disgruntled and predictably leftist poster. The number 8 was specifically given, too, by such poster. Yet in spite of numerous requests that the poster actually identify those whom she views as "trolls," no answer has been forthcoming.

So the grouping of posters as trolls (they often add "8T" to their Baristanet names) is a kind of expression of solidarity, a linking against much of the perpetually wet feathered outrage that Baristanet's reliably liberal majority posters specialize in on a daily basis. Baristanet has perforce contributed to the sense of community of said trolls. They have fun with the appellation, invite others to join and always evidence a wide variety of viewpoints among themselves. There are worse clubs to join out here in suburbia, believe you me.

Posted by: cathar (8T) at January 17, 2006 9:30 AM | Permalink

Shocking, just shocking that there would be instances of predictable leftism and all-too reliable liberalism at a wholesome place like that. Sounds like you have come to a good solution, though.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 17, 2006 9:36 AM | Permalink

Great piece Debra.

Posted by: Karl at January 17, 2006 9:53 AM | Permalink

Debra I know this perhaps seems silly but my big question about local blogging is how does one attract readers? (And sorry if "blogging" is the wrong word choice for what you do).

The difference between writing tracts about national issues and writing stories about the local pool closing is that the former *might* be of interesting to anyone interested in that national issue while the later would have a limited interest area (geographic) and since the sheer numbers of those who read blogs are fairly low, I can only imagine the percentages in one particular geographic area to be even smaller.

Let's say I live in a city like my old hometown, Akron, Ohio. It has a population of 250,000 but also a really bad daily newspaper plus lots of those small "birdcage liners" of the sort I used to write for. Of those 250,000 residents how many are potental blog readers? 250 maybe? 100 maybe? 500? How do I get those 500 readers to come to my website? Like literally...where are they going to hear about it?

The great thing about big blogs is they can become almost self-sustaning after a while. Readers send you tips. Other readers take over some of the writing. But until you get to that size how does one "attract" the tips and get the readers?

Posted by: catrina at January 17, 2006 10:08 AM | Permalink


The only thing the New York Times has corrected was the caption. Not the culture that excludes experts on the subject matter and makes excuses for errors.

All you've done is popped a pimple. Sorry -- that doesn't cure cancer. It just makes a pimple go away.

I would be delighted if the errors were over more than just nomenclature. But if you think the only errors the press makes concerning coverage of military affairs are over nomenclature, you are simply deluded.

The nomenclature errors are the easiest to explain to an unsophisticated audience. But there are many more errors that go far deeper than that.

For example, the utter inability of the press to grasp combined arms doctrine during the white phosphorus story.

The press's unfamiliarity with maneuver warfare theory and the writing of military theorists Boyle and Liddell-Hart seriously hamstrung their analysis of nearly all aspects of the Iraq war. See these link for an example of how:

The point is, if you're so uninformed you can't tell a soldier from a marine, if you can't tell an arty shell from a hellfire missile, if you can't tell an enlisted rank from an officer, you are not going to be able to add value, even to a lay discussion of military affairs.

Why pressies keep trying to say "well, it's no big deal if we're ignorant" and keep making excuses for their lack of knowledge - after we've been at war for years - is beyond me. But some of you are still sticking up for everything except getting it right.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 17, 2006 10:14 AM | Permalink

I went and looked at Baristanet for a moment. It looks great... but it means nothing to me, and that's the way it should be. I live in a small town in Texas, and will probably never visit the place Ms. Galant knows and loves.

Ric, it's perfectly understandable that it might mean nothing to you. I often feel the same way when visiting other local blogs, until I stumble on a nugget that piques my interest. What's funny is how often folks who have no connection to our locale actually come and visit. This week numerous posters from Iceland responded to a story that ran a year ago describing a local teen who was selling her own design creations and saving up for a trip to Iceland. They provided all sorts of interesting travel tips and just enjoyed that they had blipped on our radar. Reminded me of the whole Conan O'Brien/Finland connection. There's a unique connectedness that takes place in blogs that does beyond opinions to create a community that can extend itself. It's exciting to think we can create that kind of atmopshere.

Posted by: Liz George at January 17, 2006 10:52 AM | Permalink

But the failure of the Times to meet the somone's anal-retentative fixation on military nomenclature standards is perhaps better served somewhere else.

Meanwhile, back at Baristanet -
Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 01:03 AM | Permalink

Yeah, we wouldn't want to expect accuracy from the press. That's anally setting the bar too high.

Posted by: Walter Duranty in the House at January 17, 2006 11:33 AM | Permalink

You're over-analyzing, Jason. And Walter misses the point. (Even Jason acknowledges the Times corrected the error.) So far, nothing news.

Did the Times' writers know their maneuver warfare? It's irrelevant. The Times' report assumed there was some operational concept involved in the effort to target Saddam's leaders. But the story wasn't that the Army missed but that the intel was so poor, the attacks were pointless and caused needless civilian casualty's. 's efforts to take out Saddam's leaders missed but that the intel was so poor, the attacks weren't even close.

Your narrow focus on what a news story should be makes it very difficult to discuss things with you. Anyone so inclined, however, can certainly go to your blog. My point of criticism was that this particular thread on this particular discussion is not the place to fixate, once again, on the media's unfamiliarity with the Army War College.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 12:26 PM | Permalink

Yeah, Winchell smeared a lot of people. But he sure did perk up the prose!

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at January 17, 2006 1:15 PM | Permalink

Yeah, kudos to Jay for bringing such an intriguing story about a northern New Jersey blogger. It's almost as compelling as watching paint dry, or Lovelady salivate.

Posted by: Walter Duranty in the House at January 17, 2006 1:16 PM | Permalink

How did we attract readers in the beginning? We went to street fairs and handed out balloons, marched in parades, printed up postcards and put them in stores, gave away beach balls at local pools, sent links to everyone we knew, and took advantage of existing yahoo groups and forums to get out the word.

The biggest part of our start-up budget was for tchotchkes printed with our logo - a couple thousand dollars worth.

I believe the key is always having someone hear about your product twice. They see a postcard and it doesn't register. Then their best friend mentions it. Click.

Posted by: Debbie Galant at January 17, 2006 1:57 PM | Permalink

You're overanalyzing, Jason

I hope that's not what passes for informed, specific discourse in your newsroom, Dave.

And if you think the attacks were pointless, you are as ill-informed as the Times. Pressure on headquarters has an effect on the battlefield. Even if you miss. That is the point of maneuver warfare theory. The very fact that the command nodes are targeted, and must be relocated constantly, be concealed, and minimize their electronic signature is important, and has a battlefield effect, for a variety of reasons, even if the first bomb doesn't hit its target.

For a reporter to try to cover warfare without grasping this calculus is like assigning a reporter to a finance beat who doesn't understand MPT or assigning a reporter to the science beat who doesn't have a clue about germ theory.

The inadequacy of coverage, to those of us who have put in time to study the field, is more than inadequate. It's glaring.

And its editors like you who enable the incompetence, when it's your job to be purging it from your ranks.

I mean, if you don't, just who is supposed to?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 17, 2006 2:00 PM | Permalink

I remain skeptical of the overall viability of "hyper-local" blogging for one big reason....

Jay has featured a large number of successful "local" bloggers that all have one thing in common --- they are truly gifted writers. The fact is that I couldn't care less about "local blogging" and its development and blah, blah, blah....

but people like Liz, and Debra, and Lisa, and the others who have been featured by Jay have made the subject interesting because of their writing skills.

someone (Catrina, I think) asked how one builds an audience for local blogs --- and I don't think it has anything to do with subject matter, or point of view, or frequency of posting. I suspect its really about the writing -- that people keep coming back not for the "news", but for the delight of reading good prose.

....and, I suspect, that people like me who are lousy wordsmiths could never attract the kind of audiences that Lisa and Debra sustain with apparent ease...

Posted by: ami at January 17, 2006 2:10 PM | Permalink

I don't think it's the principle of maneuver warfare to target sites that don't exist. That's the point, Jason. They didn't miss. They had the wrong target. There was no there there. The intel was bad. Please don't try to tell us that's a fundamental military principle.

Apparently, not only are you over-analyzing, you're also reading into the story your own misinformed biases.

And don't call me an editor. I work for a living.

Let's talk about something else. Hey, how about those local news blogs?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 2:13 PM | Permalink

An excellent point, ami. How can this hyper-local blog sustain itself? As much a labor of love as it apparently is for Debra, the demands on talent and time are, I suppose, phenomenal. And leaves some questions: How to maintain the quality? How to keep up the pace?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 2:18 PM | Permalink

So off-line advertising. That's kind of unusal in the world of blogging which most people just post and post and try to get bigger, more popular blogs to link to them. I didn't see how that sort of viral marketing could work for baristanet because of its smaller area of interest.

I was wondering if you actually ran ads in newspapers, but handing out balloons at those typical neighborhood street fairs is probably a better idea.

Posted by: catrina at January 17, 2006 2:24 PM | Permalink

What would Barista be if it were incorporated into some larger news portal/site/ the Newhouse's New Jersey Online?

I suspect it would wither and die.

So it is perhaps a publication(?), a news enterprise, that is not scaleable. It can't reproduce itself completely without having a Debra at the helm. And it can't grow the way sense that a big newspaper tries to zone itself to serve local readers.

I'm amused that we can learn all about the several-months-old lifeguard scandal on Barista, but we can't learn about it from the big newspaper--the Star-Ledger--because all of its archives are behind a pay wall.

Posted by: JennyD at January 17, 2006 2:58 PM | Permalink

I appear, like the Ancient Mariner, cursed...yea, cursed, I say, to repeat my tale forever:

I think it's great you have local advertisers. But I don't see affiliate advertising. If you've got an affiliate program, terrific. If not, it's perfect for a smaller, loyal readership--and a good way to grow it. Tell them what the weekend sales are at Overstock, and what coupons are available at Tabletools. Preach the virtues of Zappos upgraded shipping and free returns. Make sure everyone knows you can get 5 magazines for $30 at Netmagazines. There's a million sites out there, and most of them have affiliate programs. You've got a readership who wants to reward you for your great work and also, presumably, wants to hear about good products and great deals. Let your readers support you with their purchases.

I'm the owner/operator of The Perfect World, a general discussion site that generated well over $125K in product purchases just last year--not counting travel reservations, ebay, netflix and other places that pay fees instead of commissions. I'm in the top 20% of Overstock's affiliates. My readership is somewhere between 750-1000. I don't advertise for my site, don't have postcards or balloons, and webhosting is my only expense. And I don't even have to produce content--my members do that for me.

I really don't understand the blogger obsession with CPM advertising. So Debra et al, if you aren't trying it yet, you should start in this new year.

Phew. Curse is lifted temporarily, so let me just pick up this albatross and I'll be on my way.

Posted by: Cal at January 17, 2006 4:13 PM | Permalink

Whoops. I return, but for a moment:

When I say "preach the virtues of" Zappos, Overstock, and so on, I'm not saying that you yourself have to recommend them, but rather that you post the ads (free) that tell your readers about it. I just realized that might be a point of confusion.

The beauty of affiliate advertising is that the money comes from performance, and you can have as many affiliates as you want. So you can affiliate with Zappos, 6pm, Shoebuy, and Softmoc, as well as Overstock,, Best Buy, and Circuit City--and any other merchant. You don't have to pick favorites or bias your selections in any way.

Posted by: Cal at January 17, 2006 4:21 PM | Permalink

I guess what really interested me was the local Whole Foods manager running ads on Barista. I have 64 questions about it, and what it means.

But it's the image of the grocery store ads, once the bread and butter of the big daily newspaper's revenue flow, fragmenting, and getting picked up by the truly local newsblog.

Debra, how did that happen and how does it work?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 17, 2006 4:57 PM | Permalink

ami: you were onto something. The gifted writers are the ones who may interest PressThink's full range of users.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 17, 2006 5:26 PM | Permalink

Oh, I can think of a few newspapers still getting ads from Whole Foods. And they're alot easier to get from the local managers, I can tell you.

But, back to Deb's site --which is the best of its kind I've seen. It's perfect for implementing a FSBO spin-off 'a la Madison. Better do it now, Deb, before you have so many real estate advertisers you can't afford to do it.

Posted by: Roxanne at January 17, 2006 5:28 PM | Permalink

Liz, my comment about it meaning nothing (or little) to me was a compliment, not a dig. Baristanet serves its customers. As a (literally) gap-toothed redneck in the reddest of red states, I'm not one of Debra's customers. If she put things in there that would serve my interest, it would have to be at the expense of things of interest to the people who live there.

A similarly-constructed site that served my interests would be boring, and sometimes offensive, to Debra's customers. I doubt they're interested in the price of hay, and gossip about who bought whose cattle would go right past them, zing!

This is not to say that a drop-in from outside the proper orbit would find nothing whatever of interest. Debra is an excellent writer, and you never really know what strangers want or will find interesting. The point is that what's needed is focus and background, and she's got both.


Posted by: Ric Locke at January 17, 2006 8:18 PM | Permalink

Nicely said, Ric.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 17, 2006 9:58 PM | Permalink


Great article and you all have an impressive looking and entertaining Website.

But I do wonder what a future world would be like if blogs like yours - devoted to small communities - were multiplied ad infinitum all over the Web. With the technology today that allows anyone to snap pictures on their cell phones and throw them up on the web...there's a certain loss of privacy. While this kind of "surveillance" isn't coming from the government there's still the danger of a Big Brotherish quality to it.


Posted by: Ron Brynaert at January 17, 2006 11:49 PM | Permalink

Tim Porter, ex-newspaper man, had a reaction:

Galant, a former non-staff columnist for the New York Times, writes about the joy of local journalism, of news writ small but smack-full of personality. To me, her words brought to mind my first newspaper days, which I spent reporting and photographing on a small daily in Carson City, Nev. Journalism was personal then - for me because I brimmed with idealism and intensity (the latter survives), for the community because nothing was too "small" not to be news, and for the newspaper staff because we all lived among the people we wrote about. We heard about what they liked and we heard about what they didn't - often in person, either in the office, at the local saloon or sometimes while getting a hair cut.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 17, 2006 11:52 PM | Permalink

Heh. The Times cherrypicks 50 strikes out of thousands. Then Human rights watch cherrypicks four out of those 50 and says the US could have avoided a number of civilian casualties if we had taken precautions.

Tell me-if we were so lousy at targeting, then how was most of the Iraqi army rendered irrelevant to the fight?

Why were Iraqi decisions so bad? How did the US get so far into their OODA-loop?

Frankly, you miss the point entirely. You're like the science beat reporter who never heard of germ theory. The mere threat of an attack on a command node in itself has power, because you force the enemy to take precautions which degrade his ability to direct the fight.

Yes, you might hit an empty building from time to time. Or you might hit one he just left. It still works.

My "institutional biases," as you call them, are also known as 13 years of commissioned service and 17 years of study. In other words, unlike the Times reporter and unlike the morons at HRW (you don't think they have an agenda of their own?), I know what the hell I'm talking about.

When a reporter writes an article specifically about the targeting of critical vulnerabilities (say, command and control nodes for an army with a highly centralized command structure such as Iraq's, and does so in a way that totally ignores MWT, all that reporter does is establish himself to be an uninformed chowderhead.

Lawyers routinely say the same thing about reporters who write stupidly about the law, and scientists say the same thing about science beat reporters who write stupidly about science.

But I look specifically at military reporting, and it's too often incompetent.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 18, 2006 1:15 AM | Permalink

And what do you want PressThink and its participants to do about it? Argue with you so you can feel more knowledgeable than they? A little "admit the problem" action? (That's the most common answer: "Well, you could admit the problem instead of telling me I'm...") A guilty-as-charged post or two from someone who is in charge? Manhattan elites prove how out of touch they are with life beyond Prada by going toe-to-toe with Mr. Military?

I mean: what's the agenda here, Jason? Should we be asking you for ways to improve ourselves? Apologizing to you for our cluelessness? Deference to your awesome authority?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 18, 2006 8:30 AM | Permalink


I'd like to congratulate you on the excellent reporting you've done on drone attack on the HQ of the striking Glen Ridge lifeguards. Your account of how many speedos and whistles were destroyed --- and its impact on the effectiveness of the rebel lifeguards, will doubtless be considered Pulitzer material.

Posted by: ami at January 18, 2006 8:32 AM | Permalink


If you feel Press Think has any significant influence on innovations in the journalistic process, perhaps you could spearhead the problem in this space? This is a genuine suggestion. Of course, you may not prioritize the issue as a problem as highly as Jason does.



Posted by: Shawn in Tokyo at January 18, 2006 8:41 AM | Permalink

Jason doesn't want reporting; he wants PR.

"This reporter reported on something that I think I know something about. And he got it wrong. Either that, or I got it wrong. Could that be?


Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 18, 2006 9:06 AM | Permalink

Jara Heuston of Fresno Famous, another successful Barista-style site (quite interesting too) writes at her blog about this discussion:

With Famous, our first offline marketing efforts included 5,000 postcards and hundreds of 1-inch buttons. We’ve also developed some good partnerships with other media in the community: the local progressive monthly prints our event listings; the local NBC affiliate has partnered with us for their entertainment reporting (if we give them a heads up on a story, they send viewers to Fresno Famous for more info); we have a cross promotional agreement with the college radio station; we’re working with the Fresno Arts Council and local public television to promote a monthly art event. We also sponsor different events around town- film festivals, rock shows- with free advertising. I’m involved in lots of civic organizations, which keeps me plugged in and plugging the site.

But the biggest driver of traffic, at least in the beginning, was the voice of the site. Like Baristanet, Famous had a snarktastic tone that wrote about local events with a little flavor. People came to laugh about what was going on in their community, but in a positive way. We’ve never been negative; when we poke fun we also talk about solutions.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 18, 2006 9:47 AM | Permalink

Oh, don't be silly, Jay. The problem is fairly straightforward. A commitment to newsroom diversity - REAL diversity of intellectual and cultural outlook - not just 'bean-counter' diversity - would go a long way toward improving the way military affairs are reported.

In order to make a gem out of a rock, you have to cut it from more than one direction.

The problem is that newsrooms have been empirically demonstrated many times over to be intellectually and culturally one-sided. The newsroom, in its current makeup, is intellectually incapable of cutting the rock from enough different directions to create a gem.

All they can do is cut off part of the rock. (And a lot of times, such as with the maneuver warfare theory example I brought up, that's a pretty damn important part of understanding the rock.)

You've got that diversity here on this forum, in a small way, in that I'm bringing a perspective that is unusual in your world.

It's not unusual at all in mine, though.

I'm pointing my laser at the rock from a different direction than you're accustomed to seeing.

I wonder why it is the mere presence of my point of view drives you so batty? I'm arguing from specifics, and advocating solutions, and you and Lovelady keep trying to turn this into something personal about me. (i.e., Lovelady's inane "he doesn't want reporting. He wants P.R" quip.)

No. I want reporting, but I want INFORMED reporting, from people who understand their beats. Democracy doesn't just rely on a free press. It relies on an accurate press. It's how the republic makes decisions.

Uninformed reporting leads to irrational decisions, such as efforts to ban white phosphorus from the battlefield when the doctrinal use of WP saves lives on the battlefield. It also leads to the misallocation of resources. The health care world is a good example.

I'm sorry if you find my arguments so difficult to deal with. But I think you've become uncoupled from the basics somewhere along the way:

1.) Learn the beat.
2.) Verify the facts, as you understand them.
3.) Look at the facts from a variety of frames.

It doesn't seem all that complicated to me. I recognize that in war and in reporting, even the simplest things can be extremely difficult to do. But I think too many here spend way too much time making excuses why we shouldn't expect even that much from journos.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 18, 2006 10:07 AM | Permalink

On the other hand, it's reassuring to find someone who knows everything.

Or, as Jason puts it:

"Unlike the Times reporter and unlike the morons at Human Rights Watch (you don't think they have an agenda of their own?), I know what the hell I'm talking about."

We've finally found someone who knows what the hell he's talking about ! (Unlike the rest of us peasants, I guess.)

It's also a relief to be able to dismiss the NYT and the HRW out of hand, because ... hmmm. Because why ?

Well, because Jason said so!

Good riddance to those bozos, I say. So much of their information is just confusing -- filled as it is with nuance and qualifiers and all that other stuff that is just irritating as hell to every wannabe commando-in-waiting.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 18, 2006 10:10 AM | Permalink

1.) Learn the beat.
2.) Verify the facts, as you understand them.
3.) Look at the facts from a variety of frames.

It doesn't seem all that complicated to me. I recognize that in war and in reporting, even the simplest things can be extremely difficult to do. But I think too many here spend way too much time making excuses why we shouldn't expect even that much from journos.
Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 18, 2006 10:07 AM | Permalink

One would think that Lovelady, McLemore, and Rosen would also want this, but apparently they would prefer to launch snark missiles from their cocoons, or in Jay's case, from a "bubble".

Posted by: Walter Duranty in the House at January 18, 2006 10:47 AM | Permalink


You seem to be suggesting that being a military veteran necessarily leads one to have your perspective on military issues, that the diversity hiring program you propose would lead to more reporters and editors who see things your way. But military service -- even military service in the same branch or MOS -- doesn't mean that two people will come out with the same perspective. I think using White Phosphorous as a weapon is a mistake (Tim, by the way, disagrees). And no way does military service lead people to unmistakable conclusions -- about war, about politics, about the military. The moderators at Dragoon Base had to put a moritorium on discussions of Bush in 2004 because the vets who go there were so divided on the man, the war. They reflected the country, not some essence of "cavalry-ness."

It bugs me when AP moves cutlines that refer to armored personnel carriers as tanks, and occasionally I've been able to give copy editors and the like quick "blocks of instruction" on the finer points of mil-speak. But one doesn't have to be a veteran to understand the military, and one shouldn't have to present a DD-214 to have their reporting and/or opinions taken seriously. Saying "it's an army thing -- you wouldn't understand" is a cop-out on equal terms with African-American public figures who suggest white reporters are incapable of understanding or writing about "black issues."

I'd like it better if there were more vets in the newsroom, but there's a limited supply. Trying to manufacture them to meet a diversity goal would be just another road to nowhere for an industry that already specializes in such slow-motion disasters.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at January 18, 2006 10:48 AM | Permalink

Jason: I asked you what you wanted PressThink to do about the problem that military reporting is incompetent because incompetent, biased and sheltered people do it, and the problem that there's no real diversity of intellectual and cultural outlook in American newsrooms, and the problem of legal reporting by reporters who know nothing about the law, and the related problem of science reporting by reporters who don't know jack about science; and I also wanted to know what you thought you would accomplish by venting about this in a thread on hyper-local newsblogging. I'm sorry if you think that's a personal attack, Jason.

"Stop making excuses for..." Maybe that's it.

Meanwhile, what about Whole Foods? More info please.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 18, 2006 10:53 AM | Permalink

One more thing: I think it's great that we have war colleges and people who spend their careers studying and applying the deep principles of military thought and art. But I would also argue that being able to cite the latest acronym from the TRADOC acronym-and jargon-factory isn't (on its own) the same thing as a deeper knowledge of military principles.

It certainly helps to understand how military leaders have been trained to think and fight. But being able to trade jargon isn't the same thing as insight. I knew West Point-trained officers who could spout jargon all damned day but couldn't figure out how to get through an electric fence without the aid of a private, and company commanders who could speak convincingly about "defense in depth" but responded to every single tactical problem with a frontal assault.

Reporters should get their facts straight, and I have no interest in defending those who are slack or stupid. If they're covering the military, they have to learn the military. It's that simple.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at January 18, 2006 11:05 AM | Permalink

"Hyper Local" news reporting, opinion, and blogging is the view from producers of "big" press. The reader probably doesn't think of it as hyper local - merely relevant.

If the reporter misses something; she is given suggestions. If the reporter gets something wrong; she is corrected. If the reporter inadvertently, or intentionally, takes a controversial position; she starts a firestorm. If the blogger sets the tone and conduct for the ensuing comments; she facilitates dialog and deeper understanding.

What's not to like?

Ric Locke’s earlier comment about reporting being about and for community addresses the point. Jason’s heat is about an ill-served community or communities. I’m not trying to conflate the multiple issues being discussed on this thread, but Debra’s style and responsiveness to her community is both how she built and maintains interest among her readers and community.

While Debra’s style and responsiveness are not scalable (apologies to Debra,) style and responsiveness are scalable.

These points seem additions to earlier PressThink posts about “View from Nowhere” and “Citizen of the World.”

Posted by: John Lynch at January 18, 2006 11:20 AM | Permalink

You know, I'm getting a little tired of the endless discussion of how reporters know nothing about the military and write about it anyway. I could go on and on about how reporters know nothing about education and schooling (they don't) or how they don't know how to read social science research, or medical research. Or how reporters don't know about lots of specialties. And blah, blah.

Believe it or not, lots of reporters don't know stuff. Yes, military guys, you know more. We get it. You've told us.

So, how about we move on?

I'd like to note that E&P has a story today that its columnists will now receive emails ONLY from Times Select subscribers. The rest of the riff-raff out there is apparently too stupid, or poor, or whatever to have their ideas passed on to the great thinkers of the NYT.

Now that's a great way to stay in touch with your community, your world, your readers, citizens, all that.

And Jeff Jarvis has a post on how to blowup newspapers, dumping what they don't need and keeping what they do. What do the need? Local news...

Posted by: JennyD at January 18, 2006 11:27 AM | Permalink

Good grief.

I really wish commenters would resist debating off-topic military issues in PressThink comment threads.

Really. If you want to debate Jason, offer to comment on a post on his blog about the topic. I'm sure Jason would be more than happy to engage you there.

It's not even that Jason's correct. He often is, but using TST/HVTs (if you don't know, look it up) during March 2003 as an example of maneuver warfare doctrine is dumb. It's a dumb example because it didn't prove the doctrine. It didn't disprove the doctrine, either, but it did prove problems in executing that part of the doctrine.

No, the reason I wish they would resist is because they consistantly prove Jason's point about ignorance. In a complaint about reporting on air strikes and CIA/DIA intelligence, McLemore blames the Army.


Look, here's some links. Take them over to Countercolumn and debate. It's a good debate and it helps to be informed. Have fun. Maybe I'll join you there.

Errors Are Seen in Early Attacks on Iraqi Leaders
Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq
Bio of Human Rights Watch's Mark Garlasco
The Invasion of Iraq

PS: On the NYT artillery/missile propaganda pic posted to the web ... 18 Deaths Cancelled!. What I found most interesting is that the NYT seems to have introduced the error instead of using Getty's caption.

Posted by: Sisyphus at January 18, 2006 11:40 AM | Permalink

Good point, Tim.

Jason tried to hijack the thread, with his pseudo-military mumbo jumbo.

And too many of us -- me included -- took the bait, which only plays into his tactic.

ami, dear, scoot over. I need a seat on the don't-feed-the-troll bleachers.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 18, 2006 12:29 PM | Permalink

Jon Fine, Business Week's Changing World 'o Media columnist, asks about this post: Is this the new local newspaper?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 18, 2006 2:10 PM | Permalink

I work with K-12 schools. We try to build parental involvement through improved communication. Among the initiatives is the school web site. We push to get teachers (every teacher,) coaches, administrators, alum, boosters, etc. to publish up-to-date content at least weekly on the site. It really blows up the size of a school site; usually from less than 100 pages to over 3000 pages. Updates per week go into the high hundreds. A common concern is that it is limited to "certain towns--affluent, plugged-in," and not for other towns.

Our studies: parent surveys, internet adoption rates, age, education, income in differing communities - do show differences in the desire and ability to be connected via internet communication. The differences range from low 80% to high 90%.

I think it insufficient to say that only affluent seek such sense of community.

Posted by: John Lynch at January 18, 2006 2:30 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady said:
> Jason tried to hijack the thread, with his
> pseudo-military mumbo jumbo.
> And too many of us -- me included -- took the
> bait, which only plays into his tactic.

I would like to point out that this comes across as puerile hogwash.

It reads as a need to mark everything Jason has written, which seems to have spilled over from the last comments thread, as invalid and trolling to boot. It reminds of a child covering his ears at the end of an argument and sticking out his tongue, when he might simply have walked a way, or closed his mouth.

Tim seems correct that the debate has exhausted the possibilities of the PressThink forum. As Jay Rosen wrote, he is not in a position to start experimenting with newsroom political or experiencial "diversity" even if her were inclined to, which he does not appear to be.

However, in a land rife with diversity and affirmative action programs, and a press dominated by mainstream players that show no inclination to acquiring military background to support their reporting on military issues, no reasonable person can dismiss Jason's recommendations as trolling.

Thank you

Posted by: MarcBoston at January 18, 2006 3:00 PM | Permalink

Now that we're back on the topic, Jon Fine raises an interesting question.
This kind of approach will only work for readers and citizens of certain towns--affluent, plugged-in, in-on-the-joke.
It's true that Debra has that sort of audience.
Montclair, NJ, is a haven of activist citizens and parents, many of them media types -- sort of what Jason in his paranoid musings imagines certain quarters of Manhattan to be, only with trees and yards and an odious commute added into the equation.
(If, God forbid, you wanted to take out the staff rosters of the New York Times, Time and Newsweek in one fell swoop, you might be better off bombing Montclair than, say, Greenwich Village.)
So Fine's question obtains: Is there a local newspaper that is clued-in enough to give Debra competition, or is she filling a vacuum ?
Not being in Montclair, I don't know the answer to that question. So -- can someone tell us ?
Debra ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 18, 2006 3:14 PM | Permalink

Good to see Debbie's hardwork written about.

I have to thank her for baptizing my Montclair based read around the world blog 'Serge the Concierge' and raising awareness on my business venture, Montclair Concierges

I have to agree with fellow Montclair resident Steve Baker of Business Week that down the road Barista might hurt the Montclair Times.

Go Girl


Posted by: Serge Lescouarnec at January 18, 2006 3:26 PM | Permalink

Isn't that the problem with assumptions about blogs? Its kind of like they're the Uggs of 2003-04-5. Anybody who's anybody reads them. but the actual percentages of (take your pick) population/voters who read blogs regularly is relatively low. I think with time that percentage will increase...but is it going to reach levels of 70-80% of the population?

People who are reading blogs tend to be, as of now, a fairly cohesive population. Not in terms of politics but in terms of things like education/income levels. (Ironically blog readers aren't really *young* people. I thought I saw a Pew poll and it shows most blog readers are 30-45. Not under-25.)

This is what I was saying when I was asking...what is the ratio of a single city to blog-reading population? This doesn't seem to me to be an entreprise that can work well for anything less than places with large populations.

Posted by: catrina at January 18, 2006 3:56 PM | Permalink

no reasonable person can dismiss Jason's recommendations as trolling.
Thank you

oh look! Its meta-trolling!

Posted by: ami at January 18, 2006 4:19 PM | Permalink

I would refrain from bombing Greenwich village out of respect for some good jazz clubs. There's also a great traditiona Irish music session at a pub called Mona's every monday night from about 11pm.

I have therefore removed the area from my "To Do" list. And I'm sparing Hollywood for the sake of Canter's Deli and Tail o' th' Pup, if you must know.

Yes, Jason is all-merciful, all-forbearing. I know. Please. Don't gush.

Don't know anything about Montclair. Hyper-local reporting has just never held much interest or relevance for me. I guess once you've experienced Honolulu politics, everyone else's seems boring in comparison.

What would I like Press Think to do? Just what it's doing now: Provide a forum for professional discussion. I don't expect Jay or Steve or ami to agree with me. The real audience I would like to reach are the lurkers on this forum. All I would like to see is some editors, and other reporters and interns and students who are future editors, to consider my arguments - and maybe some will say 'you know, he's got a point or two. We COULD do this better, by taking another look at it. Or by rounding out the experiences of the staff, through careful recruiting. Maybe they need some veterans, some brats, some people with chemistry degrees, law backgrounds, people who've been teachers - people with backgrounds more diverse than J-school or an english degree and an internship somewhere.

I mean, if you believe in the value of a broad education for an individual, how much more so for a broadly-educated newsroom? And by that, I don't mean 90% of people with a BA in the same subject. I mean a true multi-discplinary team of professionals in a variety of fields.

Anyone can post on Countercolumn. But Countercolumn has a largely military audience, and few commenters. The people I'm trying to communicate with aren't military. They're mediacs. So why not Press Think?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 18, 2006 4:26 PM | Permalink

You are right Jason, but you are wrong. I happen to agree with you on many topics, but you ARE trolling. You happen to take any topic and align it with the lack of military experise in the media.

This topic was not designed to address that problem. It was designed to addess whether a alternative form of media is viable and what are the requirements for its success or failure. As a corporate systems technician, that is important to me as I help smaller entities within my organization produce reporting for their own and corporate use.

On the other hand you could promote this thread by relating your experiences with the Honolulu media and whether this type of media outlet would be successful there. You could also then relate whether an outlet like that could improve on the national conversation on miliary matters and information. At that point you would be lending a hand in the conversation, not a hindrence.

Posted by: Tim at January 18, 2006 5:07 PM | Permalink

About your "... 90% of people with a BA in the same subject," and the "true multi-discplinary team of professionals" you'd like to see, we have heard of some of these things.

During the time when I was chairman, the NYU Department, one of the largest majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, voted to require a double major for all who wanted a Journalism B.A. You can't major in journalism alone; it has to be journalism and biology, or history or political science. The students like the new system, and so do their parents. Educationally, it is sound.

Long before I became chairman, we created a Masters-level program to train science reporters that requires an undergraduate degree in science or technical discipline. We also have an MA for specialists in Business and Economic Reporting; the ideal candidate comes from the business world. The graduates are snapped up.

We have a third program in cultural criticism and reportage, where we teach the journalistic forms to students who might have made excellent academic critics.

We are very aware of the value of a broadly-educated J-grad. Plus at NYU we don't spin off Journalism into a professional school. It remains part of the arts and sciences. The narrowness you decry we have worked hard to overcome.

Right now, if you want to be accepted into one of our most competitive graduate programs, military experience would count for more (it would be more interesting to a faculty member leafing through your folder) than an undergraduate degree in journalism.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 18, 2006 5:09 PM | Permalink


I think I had heard about that a few years back, and I thought it was an excellent idea. (I think the field of education could do the same thing.)

As for why the spillover, here's what happened...I wrote my first post in this thread (not counting "FIRST!" for the last thread. The thread was open when I started writing, but closed when I finished the post. Well, I wasn't going to waste all that time writing. So I posted it on the next thread. George Boyle responded to it. Someone else responded to Boyle. And off we go.

I think the situation has gotten so bad - at least in major centers - that military will tend to self select to AVOID careers in media, as will conservatives as well, just as they self-select to avoid careers in academia. Don't have empirical evidence to support that. I turned down a chance to continue my career in straight financial journalism to not move to NYC. Which is unfortunate, because it's tough to get a good trad session going down here.

As for micro-community reporting - I've been running a micro-community blog for over two years. So have you, and so have a lot of other people. We both have our beats, as does the barista. You are better at going in-depth on certain issues on yours. ($^#*ing day-job).

My little community, the Army, happens to be engaged in a war. 130,000 people or so. The size of a middling- town. So the media reports on the little community fighting the war.

Suppose CNN, ABC, 60 minutes, Fox, and a hundred newspapers and magazines all devoted multiple crews and reporters to covering her community, full-time, 24/7, for three years straight. I wonder what they'd get wrong then?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 18, 2006 6:12 PM | Permalink

Style points go to the Arcata Eye, which has Police Blotter entries written in limerick. Very Local. Very funny.

Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech at January 18, 2006 6:20 PM | Permalink

As to the question of whether the Montclair Times or other local papers copy our style, I doubt it. Local weekly journalism is too much of a pep rally, too afraid of offending the advertisers. But even if they did, there wouldn't be the 24-7 aspect, or the 2-say conversation. If they incorporated all those elements into a web approach, we could be in trouble.

As for the sophistication of the audience, and the argument that therefore a Baristanet approach couldn't work anywhere else, check out this guy's site in Vermont.

Posted by: Debbie Galant at January 18, 2006 9:05 PM | Permalink

I mean, if you believe in the value of a broad education for an individual, how much more so for a broadly-educated newsroom? And by that, I don't mean 90% of people with a BA in the same subject. I mean a true multi-discplinary team of professionals in a variety of fields.

I couldn't resist.
Jason, maybe you should understand what kind of people are drawn into journalism. (And this is my opinion and experience. Of course, I'm generalizing.) Most people go into journalism to write and report on any news subject. They're mostly generalists. Journalism not a high paying profession (sure, there are high salaries for TV reporters and print elites, but they are in the minority). The best and brightest college students don't major in journalism.

If you were a legal expert/attorney, you would be a great legal reporter, but why would you? You make more money practicing law.
If you were a fund manager or analyst on Wall Street, why would you become a business reporter? You make 10 times more on Wall Street.

I'm sure most editors would love to have a veteran on their staff. But how many of veterans are out who has reporting skills or who want to go into journalism?

Stephen Crane had written with acclaim about the Civil War without ever experiencing battle. The value in a reporter is in a good journalism skills, not expert knowledge in the field -- and those few with expert knowledge are ultra valuable.

Back to Montclair, NJ.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 18, 2006 9:39 PM | Permalink

Read it and sigh. At Buzzmachine, a newspaper person with an excitement for the online world tells tales of the icy neglect his (her?) suggestions met with. "CK" quit once in disgust and went back to the print edition:

But a couple of years ago, they lured me back. I saw the promise of things like blogging, open-source journalism, we media, and was excited again. Finally, Internet was the main topic of discussion at my company’s strategy sessions. It’s where the promise is.

Of course, I’m still alone, taking care of all these websites with little help, writing more business plans to no avail. They will talk Internet, but they will not open their wallets, not even a sliver, to fund anything. Mention blogging and they sigh. Talk open-source journalism and they cringe. Tell them they have to be part of the conversation, and they say that’s what letters to the editor are for. Tell them the Internet is a threat, and they agree, which is why they won’t fund it.

So many similar stories in the industry formerly known as the news business.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 18, 2006 10:11 PM | Permalink


I recall some comments of yours from earlier that espoused free-market principles and approaches. So let me advocate an Adam-Smithian solution to your predicament: Why don't you start an ultra-accurate, all military newspaper (or a hyper-military blog) and see if the market buys it? Maybe it will even make you rich.

To another of your pet peeves, Adam Smith would ask: if recruiting veterans pays for the publisher, what makes you think that the Publishers would not grab every available veteran (or more precisely, until a point is reached where the marginal cost of a veteran equals the marginal value of one)? Inertia? Bias? Tradition? Wall street, for example, seems to be brimming over with quants that have no finance background to speak of.

It is an all-volunteer army. The military is like any other profession in a free market system. We all have career choices and our assessment of the risks and rewards associated with each such choice. I have a sense that you want us all to hold the military profession in some special regard simply because they are the military, and learn all there is to learn about the military before reporting on it.

It is no secret that news reporters are an ignorant bunch, but generally speaking, they are no more ignorant of the military than, say, hydrogen cells, or quantum mechanics. How many reporters have you met that have studied string theory and understood it before they reported on it?

Posted by: village idiot at January 19, 2006 12:04 AM | Permalink

"I think the situation has gotten so bad - at least in major centers - that military will tend to self select to AVOID careers in media, as will conservatives as well, just as they self-select to avoid careers in academia." --Jason

I think you're right, Jason. (Never thought I'd type those words.)
In fact, your statement is the answer to the question, "Why don't newspapers hire conservatives ?" (Because they choose other vocations; finding one in the hiring pool is like finding a needle in a haystack.)
Conversely -- and it would be just as accurate -- one could also write:
"I think the situation has gotten so bad that youngsters with aspirations literary will tend to self select to AVOID careers in the military, as will many of an academic bent as well, just as they self-select to avoid careers in engineering or mutual fund sales."

Could be we're talking about an "I'm from Mars, you're from Venus" sort of thing here.
And each is irritated by the other. The Martians have all the marbles (money), but it drives them nuts that the Venutians have ... the op-ed page. And vice versa.
A little-noted aspect of the blogosphere is that it is quickly changing all that. Used to be, you paid your money and you took your choice: Either you got the Beemer and no voice, or you chose the dented 10-year-old Chevy and a column on the metro page, or at least tenure.
Now, you can get the BMW and a voice.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 19, 2006 12:06 AM | Permalink

Now, you can get the BMW and a voice.

Aaaargh .... those unpatriotic, pretentious, know-it-alls! What is wrong with a good old, built in the USA, Ford?

Posted by: village idiot at January 19, 2006 12:18 AM | Permalink

It's what happens when you rush a thought, Sisyphus. As Jason said, those darned ol' day jobs get in the way.

Though in fairness, McLemore didn't blame the Army. McLemore interpreted the Times' report and wrote "Army" when he should have written 'military.'

And I certainly have no problems with newspapers hiring veterans. I am one.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 19, 2006 12:20 AM | Permalink

"Local weekly journalism is too much of a pep rally, too afraid of offending the advertisers." -- Debra Galant,

There you go. You succeed because you do what the timid local weekly does not -- and there's an audience for it. Sort of like the pamphleteering press of, oh, say, 1776.

I think that's a great development, Debbie -- especially at a time when so many are calling for pep rally journalism at levels local through national.

Go get 'em.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 19, 2006 12:38 AM | Permalink

Offtopic update

Debra Howell redefining ombudsmanship:

Washington Post Ombudsman Will No Longer Reply to Critics

You just can't make this stuff up!

Posted by: Mark Anderson at January 19, 2006 1:30 AM | Permalink

Why don't you start an ultra-accurate, all military newspaper (or a hyper-military blog) and see if the market buys it? Maybe it will even make you rich.

Oh, because they already exist. Gannett owns several of them, under the Military Times flag. They're weeklies. I think overall they do a terrific job.

Then there's the Stars and Stripes. Not as strong, because most of their content comes from the wires. Military Times seems to do a lot more value add in-house. As far as I know, the Gannett papers do very well financially, as newspapers go. They're so nichey for advertisers. And many of their reporters are truly terrific, and would probably be stars most other places.

But the people who read the Military Times papers are almost exclusively military. They do little to inform the public, because their content is not often syndicated, that I've seen. Maybe some of the Gannett papers pick it up, but I haven't noticed.

I've seen some terrific community journalism out of the Stars and Stripes, though. Not too often, but they'll hit the mark occasionally. The Army Times is much more consistant. I don't regularly read Marine Corps or Navy Times.

My major criticism about the Military Times hasn't been their military coverage, but about the kid gloves they treated First Command with, which was one of their major advertisers.

First Command was fined 12 million dollars by the SEC and their whole business model, the contractual investment plan, was all but shut down by congress following an expose by the New York Times.

(Yeah, Countercolumn was six months ahead of the Times, but that's like wetting your pants in a dark suit - it gives you a warm feeling, but nobody notices. At least I can brag that First Command threatened me with a lawsuit before the New York Times and the SEC gave them bigger problems. Meanwhile, I told them, politely, to shove it.)

At any rate, First Command ran an article, but didn't mention the firm by name. Later they ran an article with an Army spokesperson defending First Command, but didn't mention that the Army spokesperson was a former First Command representative.

So I did it myself.

I guess their reporting is good, but their editors didn't stand up to First Command.

I did. But I don't sell ads, so it's easy for me.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at January 19, 2006 2:19 AM | Permalink

I thought John Lynch made an excellent point when he wrote:

"Hyper Local" news reporting, opinion, and blogging is the view from producers of "big" press. The reader probably doesn't think of it as hyper local-- merely relevant.

It's a good example of how point-of-view is inherent in the simplest terms, even a descriptive category like "hyper-local," which is only descriptive for observers positioned a certain way.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 19, 2006 9:09 AM | Permalink

It's a good example of how point-of-view is inherent in the simplest terms, even a descriptive category like "hyper-local," which is only descriptive for observers positioned a certain way.

Jay, that's kind of silly.

It doesn't take a reader of Andrew Sullivan and Wonkette to recognize the "hyper-local" nature of Baristanet. A regular reader of Lisa William's H2OTown blog would also see Baristanet as "hyper-local". Heck, a regular reader of Baristanet would recognize Baristanet as "hyper-local".

That being said, I'm not sure what the term "hyper-local" specifically means --- it appears to refer to highly "personal" blogs about relatively small geographic/political subdivisions.



when does "hyper-local blogging" become gossip, and/or an invasion of privacy?

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 10:14 AM | Permalink

I don't think you understood my observation, which had to do not with the capacity to recognize a term like hyper-local but people's tendency to see it that way. The question about surveillance and invasion of privacy in a hyper-local setting is a good one. Ron Brynaert asked this of Debra earlier.

Sentimentalizing the intimacy of "the town" or "the community" is a bad idea. One of the reasons Americans have always given for leaving small towns is the excessive surveillance that goes on, the social control through gossiping about, the "everybody knows your business" feeling. I could imagine hyper-local blogging in the age of the cell phone (and cell phone camera) building on the relatively oppressive tradition of the nosy neighbors; and I wonder if Liz and George have ever worried about this.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 19, 2006 10:28 AM | Permalink

Ami: "Question: when does "hyper-local blogging" become gossip, and/or an invasion of privacy?"

I would organize that question differently.

Hyper-local blogging facilitates many things, including:
- gossip
- invasion of privacy
On a local scale, just as mass media facilitates them to great profit on the scale of People magazine and E-Entertainment channel.

I seem to recall news stories from the past year of schoolgirls engaging each other in viscious gossip wars via blogs.

So I would say, "hyper-local blogging" becomes gossip when it is used for gossip, just like any other form of communication?


PS I will ignore your "meta-troll" comment as meta-meta-trolling.

Posted by: marcBoston at January 19, 2006 10:35 AM | Permalink

The point about hyper local was more about the term selected by the 'big' media and how it contrasts with readers who go there not because of the term, but the relevance to their lives.

Differences in perception, not in recognizability of the term.

Without trying to romanticize feelings of community; there are more pressing needs for people who are readers to seek news about their interests. Whether the interest is getting to the pool on a Friday afternoon, or following a unit in a battle in Mosul -- readers seek developments in their interests. There is an appetite for it, not satisfied until found, that will drive a reader to view/read puerile material, scan headlines and websites, and argue out of unsatisfied frustration.

Posted by: John Lynch at January 19, 2006 10:49 AM | Permalink

Jay I hadn't thought about the possibility of local blogs to become more like high school hallways. I've heard of some high school blogs becoming very much just another excuse to pass on rumors.

But what if a hyper local blog reportered that "Mrs. Smith's son has decided to come out of the closet and annouce he's gay." Newsworthy? Gossip? Libelous?

Or a scenario that's even more likely..."The corner of 3rd and Main is known as a hotspot for drug dealing."

Posted by: catrina at January 19, 2006 11:16 AM | Permalink

for the record, i thought the idea of "meta-trolling" was the funniest thing I'd heard all day, and "meta-meta-trolling" made me laugh, too. and i thought, "wow, we've added something to the language on this thread."

alas, not true: Both terms were around as early as 1994.

re: Small towns. I'm all excited about the future of grass-roots, independent journalism, but without a doubt we'll have horrors created in its name. We'll have small-town tyrannts and mean-spirited smears. I've lived in small towns, and these things go on without the web, so it's easy to imagine how they'll be used. I know one example first-hand -- the case of Darla Kaye Wynn, the Wiccan priestess from Great Falls, SC, went from ugly to powderkeg when Darla confronted people who were trying to drive her off in a local online forum devoted to Great Falls gossip (Darla won a court case that enjoined the town council from prayers invoking Jesus to start their meetings).

For what it's worth, though, I think hyperlocal news blogs will thrive in urban/suburban settings. Small, distinct towns have different needs and audiences.

re: local and hyperlocal. I'd bet that if we studied it, we'd wind up defining "local" as a news market that's large enough to make print coverage profitable. "Hyperlocal" is going to be a market that is too "small" to be profitably covered by a metro or small daily, creating a niche for newsblogging.

Hyperlocal will prove to be profitable, so the issue is really just scalability.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at January 19, 2006 1:11 PM | Permalink

Do hyper-local blogs allow comment posting by non-locals? Do locals, or all people, have to register with real identities?

How does anonymity fit into the 'hyper-local' communication space, if at all?

Posted by: MarcBoston at January 19, 2006 1:13 PM | Permalink

for the record, i misspelled her name: Darla Kaye Wynne, with an e.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at January 19, 2006 1:14 PM | Permalink

Or a scenario that's even more likely..."The corner of 3rd and Main is known as a hotspot for drug dealing."
Posted by: catrina

Sounds like the perfect place to have a prudently hidden camera cell phone on hand.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 19, 2006 2:04 PM | Permalink

But what if Third & Main is a house. What if a blgo non-too-subtly implies "123 House on 3rd St" seems to be a drug house. We see people come in and out of it all the time.

What if its pot that being sold and not meth or heroin? What if a camera phone catches a picture of a person smoking pot or using drugs and posts that.

What's the difference between narc and newspaper? Has Baristanet ever had this kind of issue Debra? I'm just curious if anyone sends you "drug" tips and do you post them or no?

Posted by: catrina at January 19, 2006 3:48 PM | Permalink

Offtopic update Debra Howell redefining ombudsmanship:

Washington Post Ombudsman Will No Longer Reply to Critics

You just can't make this stuff up!

Off-topic Update Update (does that make this a meta-update, Dan?)

Deborah Howell Replies to Her Critics on Post Blog

...and apparently, she's now getting her talking points from Howie Kurtz...

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 4:00 PM | Permalink

off topic update update update...

Howell Controversy Results in Post Blog Shutting Down Comments...

As of 4:15pm ET today, we have shut off comments on this blog indefinitely.

(hey jay...think this might make a good topic for discussion?)

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 4:37 PM | Permalink


Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 19, 2006 5:23 PM | Permalink

The tone of this is just hilarious...

But there are things that we said we would not allow, including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech. Because a significant number of folks who have posted in this blog have refused to follow any of those relatively simple rules, we've decided not to allow comments for the time being. It's a shame that it's come to this.

We were going to have ice cream...but some of you had to ruin it for everyone. So no ice cream for anyone. I hope your happy with yourselves.

Posted by: catrina at January 19, 2006 5:24 PM | Permalink

> We were going to have ice cream...but some of
> you had to ruin it for everyone. So no ice cream
> for anyone. I hope your happy with yourselves.

So using tech-centric sites like Slashdot as a living example, perhaps these sites will require carefully restricted anonymous posting that can be rated by registered users, in order to effect a community trust and policing system...?

Posted by: MarcBoston at January 19, 2006 5:37 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen: Sad.


Posted by: Sisyphus at January 19, 2006 6:00 PM | Permalink

There's no foolproof system, God knows ... but the simple measure of requiring registration does cut down sharply on the loon contingent in comments sections.
Also cuts down on orchestrated assaults, which are my pet peeve.
Brady may find that he has to go to something that; obviously is not staffed to stay on top of monitoring a section that's capable of drawing over 700 comments in a few hours.
That would take a lot of hall monitors.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at January 19, 2006 6:10 PM | Permalink

That would take a lot of hall monitors.

or, one decent fact-checker that would prevent someone in Howell's position from spreading falsehoods.

I think the larger issue here is "what happens when the person who has independent oversight for 'the truth' gets caught lying, and doesn't want to admit it?" Because the bottom line here is that Howell's statement about Abramoff contributing campaign funds to both parties demanded a retraction --- but apparently Howell was too vain to admit she was dead wrong -- and I suspect that that "ombudsman" cannot be "corrected" without his/her permission....

(I just deleted another 500 words on this, because its off-topic! Catrina, I think that deserves an ice-cream cone, don't you? ;) )

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 6:45 PM | Permalink

Brady is correct to shut down the comments. In the old days before the Beamer and a voice, only the dedicated nuts call the metro desk or write letters to complain. Now it is so easy to comment anonymously. (And not all commenters are nuts.)

I read a lot of comments there during the Harris/Froomkin fooferaw. While it was 99% pro Froomkin, that in itself can't be extrapolated to WaPo readers favor Froomkin in a zero-sum readership game. Those that post comments are the same ones actively posting at partisan, Left-leaning blogs.

The WaPo editorial staff likely will not take the comments seriously when you call VandeHei "Pool Boy" and Howell "Lil Debbie." The level of vitriol was also stunning. It's press hate from the Left.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 19, 2006 6:53 PM | Permalink

Unexpected? I am not surprised by it, if that's what you ask, Tim. I think there was some mutual egging on in this case. Howell's egging on consisted of not correcting her incorrect statements. Some--a minority, but not a tiny minority--among the angry online left (patrons of Crooks & Liars, Firedoglake, Atrios) behaved like jerks and abused the Post's system, egging Brady on. Brady's on the side of the angels, I think, but he has limits, so if you're pushing him past his limits you're really pushing it. On the other hand, Howell hasn't made it easy to give her feedback.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 19, 2006 7:20 PM | Permalink

The WaPo editorial staff likely will not take the comments seriously when you call VandeHei "Pool Boy" and Howell "Lil Debbie." The level of vitriol was also stunning. It's press hate from the Left.

I guess you don't understand the difference between "righteous anger" and hate....

The left doesn't "hate the press" -- we see it as a seriously (and increasingly) flawed institution -- and what we "hate" are the flaws, as exemplified by "Steno Sue", "Pool Boy Vandehei", "Tweety Matthews", and various other media celebrities whose august company "Lovey/Li'l Debbie Howell" has joined.


Deborah Howell was your classic "bad hire for good reasons". Before coming to the Post, Howell oversaw Newhouse's "Religious News Service" -- and no doubt, the Post thought that someone who was capable of overseeing "secular" coverage of Religious news without creating a constant stream of controversies would have the skill set necessary to be the Ombudsman for the Post.

Unfortunately, the reason Howell succeeded in RNS was apparently her willingness to report "factual news" within a mythical context. In other words, from a purely objective standpoint, the dogma which underlies the whole "Papacy/Roman Catholic Church" thing is pretty absurd --- but you cannot acknowledge that absurdity when reporting on the Pope, or the Catholic Church. Religious journalism from a secular perspectives needs to accept the underlying mythos of the subject of a report to avoid controversy.

Howell's problem is that she thinks the same rules apply to both politics and religion. The "dogma" of the GOP has to be respected, especially since it is the "dominant" religion in Washington DC -- and regardless of how absurd the notion that the Abramoff Scandal is "bipartisan", the fact that it is GOP dogma makes it necessary to pretend it is not absurd.

Howell isn't objective -- she's just an agnostic when it comes to facts.

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 7:39 PM | Permalink

Whatever the post does heretofore to extricate itself from this mess, one thing is clear; Deborah Howell, as an ombudswoman (and possibly her legacy as a reporter) is permanently tainted; she is 'damaged goods' and in all likelihood, is on her way to being jettisoned by the Post at some not-too-distant point in the future.

Ten years from now, it will be taught in J-schools as a case-study in journalistic hubris.

Posted by: village idiot at January 19, 2006 8:08 PM | Permalink

it's semantics ami, righteous anger looks like hate when you read it.

if the commenters intended to convey righteous anger, and the editorial staff reads it as hate, then is it righteous or hate?

daddy is whipping you with his belt because he loves you and wants to fix your flaws.

i almost posted this Kurtz chat item last night, but didn't because i didn't want to interrupt Baristanet discussion:

Fort Washington, Md.: Reporter Sue Schmidt and ombudsman Deborah Howell have both asserted repeatedly that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. The FEC shows no record of any Democrat getting any money from Abramoff, period. Some Indian tribes who were among Abramoff's victims contributed funds to some Democrats, but suggesting that that somehow is a donation from Abramoff defies logic. How does the Post justify passing on what appears to be nothing but GOP spin as fact?

Howard Kurtz: Howell's column Sunday said that a number of Democrats "have gotten Abramoff campaign money." That was inartfully worded. I believe what she was trying to say, and I have not discussed this with her, is that some Democrats have received campaign cash from Abramoff clients, and that this may have been orchestrated by the convicted lobbyist. That's why you have a number of Democrats (as well as many Republicans, now including Denny Hastert) giving back the tainted dough or donating it to charity. Even National Review Editor Rich Lowry says this is basically a Republican scandal -- we are talking about a Bush fundraiser and Tom DeLay pal -- but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too.

if the concern is that the masses are not understanding the Abramoff scandal, the masses aren't reading Howell to get the news on Abramoff.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 19, 2006 8:09 PM | Permalink

b. j.: all it needed was a quick retraction, a sincere apology and a corrected version to set right the record. It is Ms. Howell's and WaPo's inability to show some humility in the face of a serious error that has led to this situation.

Posted by: village idiot at January 19, 2006 8:16 PM | Permalink

Bush's jaw....

There is a problem with this sentiment expressed by Kurtz... " but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too"

What we are looking at is the equivalent of a 15 car pile-up tying up an 12 lane interstate highway called the Republican Party --- and the Press is treating a pothole in a distant on-ramp (which is the Democratic Party's involvement) as an equally significant story in its traffic reports....

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 8:20 PM | Permalink

vi, methinks WaPo doesn't see "Abramoff campaign money" to Democrats needs a retraction.

ami, WaPo mentioned a Demo fender bender in the same accident and you are reading that as the equivalent of the pile up.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 19, 2006 8:30 PM | Permalink

I think I might revise my position (stated or not) that the Post was wrong in closing down their comments. I tone of their note is rather haughty...but whatever, its not a big deal.

I personally don't think that whether Debra Howell or Howard Kurtz were "better" at their jobs would have stopped this. Leaving aside the simple problem of trying to define "better" in a way that's pleasing to all of's readers I think is simply a big target and this was bound to happen no matter what. If not from the "left" than from the "right" over some other perceived unhappiness about the paper. is just flame-war bait as everyone in the culture wars pours their heart out on one of the "big targets" trying to win.

To me the problem is technological, not idealogical. The WPNI cannot let the boards be a free-for-all with NO monitoring. Too much potential liability. Therefore it requires somekind of monitoring capacity. The, and how many resources do you want to devote to creating this forum which will just be used to create complaints about you? Do you have to hire 1 more employee full-time to be a board monitor? Two more? Are the boards going to increase revenue or are they just a loss-leader?

Maybe smarter people than me know of technological solutions to limit the kind of monitoring necessariy. Steve, your right that requiring registration will cut down, but not eliminate this issue. Maybe the could go the TimesSelect way and only allow ACTUAL subscribers the ability to comment on the boards? Its not as stupid an idea as it sounds.

Posted by: catrina at January 19, 2006 8:32 PM | Permalink

vi, methinks WaPo doesn't see "Abramoff campaign money" to Democrats needs a retraction.

There is more than that one phrase. She very unequivocally states in a different para (I posted it in the previous thread) that Mr. Abramoff gave money to the Democrats. If Washington Post thinks that is accurate reporting, the 'gold standard of print journalism' moniker is likely to prove even more fleeting than I thought.

Posted by: village idiot at January 19, 2006 8:46 PM | Permalink

I personally don't think that whether Debra Howell or Howard Kurtz were "better" at their jobs would have stopped this. Leaving aside the simple problem of trying to define "better" in a way that's pleasing to all of's readers I think is simply a big target and this was bound to happen no matter what.

I have to disagree, catrina. I think this happened because of corporate "structural" reasons involving the contractual role of the ombudsman office.

Compare this to what happened with the Froomkin dust-up.... another controversy begun by a Howell column. There were more comments on that subject, and they were no less "personal" or "profane". But they weren't directed at Howell to any great extent -- especially after John Harris's citation of a really nasty professional GOP operative as a source of "not unreasonable" criticism of Froomkin. The controversy eventually ran out of steam from lack of attention -- no one forgot, but people stopped bitching about it when the Post employees stopped commenting on it. And the same dynamic would have applied in this instance, except....

IMHO, comments were shut down because it was about "Ombudsman Howell" and the fatal combination of her "independence" and her incompetence/corruption. Basically, Howell represents the journalism version of Ken Starr -- someone with a position of power who lacks integrity, but who cannot be controlled and disciplined for their failure to abide by "the rules."

Howell has lots of supporters in the Post newsroom -- and those are the same people who complained about Froomkin. Brady was stuck -- he depends upon the co-operation of the Post's reporters for the success of, and they are all backing Howell.

....and that, IMHO, is why Brady had to shut down the comments. He couldn't "do the right thing" and "correct" Howell -- and he couldn't afford to keep pissing Howell off by having hundreds of people pointing out that she was a liar on

Posted by: ami at January 19, 2006 9:18 PM | Permalink

i have no idea why the WaPo didn't do a correction. it's never the crime, but the coverup or the denial.

i agree with Jay who earlier said "We did a great job on the Abramoff story, and here are the reporters" is a wasted column, and errors in it only makes matters worse for Howell.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 19, 2006 9:23 PM | Permalink

Here is the Factual basis of plea (pdf) for which Abramoff pled guilty. Here is a graphic (pdf) to aid in keeping track of the Congress persons and staffers in the case. Anyone can clearly see that whether or not Democrats received campaign donations from the Indian tribes is completely irrelevant.

Everyone, and especially Howell, would do well to go to the source documents before they utter opinions about the scandal, let alone purport to be reporting on it. Howell's problem is that she couldn't be bothered to look at these documents before writing her column.

Here is a cache of the blog and the comments as of 4 pm ET. Anyone can see that the comment thread was no more lively than you'd see on Press Think or many other blogs. Steve, I don't think you can make the case, as you seemed to imply, that this was an orchestrated effort. Yes, people had seemed to have gone to other blogs to get additional information. But it doesn't follow that someone orchestrated this comment thread. Far from it.

I see no justification for Harris to have shut it down.

Posted by: Phredd at January 19, 2006 10:48 PM | Permalink

Brady: "The reason that people were not routinely seeing the problematic posts I mentioned were that we were trying to remove them as fast as we could in order to preserve the reasoned arguments many others were making. We removed hundreds of these posts over the past few days, and it was becoming a significant burden on us to try and keep the comments area free of profanity and name-calling. So we eventually chose to turn off comments until we can come up with a better way to handle situations like this, where we have a significant amount of people who refuse to abide by the rules we set out."

The CBS News blog was shown some of them by the Post.

Should bloggers who offer up that Democratic Underground "archive" as "evidence" be accused of the same thing Howell is being accused?

But what is evident on that archived page is that nearly 99 percent of the commenters are woefully misinformed and "would do well to go to the source documents before they utter opinions about the scandal."

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at January 19, 2006 11:46 PM | Permalink

But what is evident on that archived page is that nearly 99 percent of the commenters are woefully misinformed and "would do well to go to the source documents before they utter opinions about the scandal."

ron, care to provide us with the "source documents"? Not the testimony, the actual documents cited in the testimony, so that we can compare the "recommendations" with the actual contributions as recorded with the FEC....

because, the one document that we do have an excerpt from shows that Abramoff may have "listed" democrats --- but that no effort was made beyond listing them, while GOP incumbents all got sizeable contributions...

Posted by: ami at January 20, 2006 12:20 AM | Permalink


You're relying on a blogger's assesment of the excerpt. And many bloggers seem to be relying on the Capital Eye Website which is missing a lot.

But as one example:

On June 30, 2002 $5,000 was contributed by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana (as shown in the WaPo picture) to the nonfederal account of DASHPAC (link), Tom Daschle's 527 org.

If you do a search for that date on that page you will see other Dems got money on that very same day from the tribe (and also..contrary to the all-knowing blogosphere...most of the Abramoff tribes didn't contribute to Dems or Republicans before him...the widely linked Bloomberg story which has been misread daily by a certain renowned blogger only mentions one tribe who gave a smaller percentage to Dems after Abramoff but only a few thousand less in total to Dems).

As for Carnahan and Cleland (also listed on that WaPo excerpt)...I think there is an explanation for why those funds (except for 500 to Max) don't show up but I'm still working on proving that.

As for the source documents...there is at least one email on page 50 of the November 17 hearing which mentions Dems (though Abramoff does respond that getting money to CREE is more important)...but the majority of them haven't been publicly released yet (including the lists).

It's going to take a long time for the investigators and the journalists to complete work on this...but from the hundreds and hundreds of hours that I've spent on this since last spring I can tell you for sure that Democrats will not emerge completely unscathed. But...then...that doesn't mean that any Dems necessarily broke the law.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at January 20, 2006 1:14 AM | Permalink

Well folks, the Associated Press has just raised the ante for counterfactual journalism on the Abramoff story. Debra Howell's defensiveness is so 20th C. Are you ready?

"With the midterm elections 10 months away, Democrats have tried to link Abramoff to Republicans..."

Those wily Democrats! What were they thinking!?

Roll Call reported on March 12, 2001, that "GOP leaders on and off Capitol Hill are organizing a new drive to lean on major corporations and trade associations to hire Republicans for their top lobbying jobs." The article spoke of a "Who's Who of Republican lobbyists" who had held a meeting on the subject the week before. At the top of the list was Jack Abramoff.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at January 20, 2006 1:32 AM | Permalink

Whoops. I guess you can't link directly to But if you go to the main page and select "Donor Name Lookup" and enter Coushatta then select 2002 for the year you can see what I described for yourself.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at January 20, 2006 1:38 AM | Permalink

Ron... nice catch on the DASHPAC contribution.

What bothers me about the Post's coverage can be summed up in your statement...

This scandal - for the most part - is about Abramoff directing clients to pay Congressional members...not about his personal contributions.

In fact, this scandal has far more to do with Abramoff's own contributions, because as a lobbyist working for a "legitimate" lobbying firm, Abramoff has a responsibility to do things like draw up "bipartisan" lists of Congresscritters that were (as the notation for Jean Carnahan states) "Supporter[s] of Native Americans"

This fulfillment of the "legitimate" role of a lobbyist is separate and distinct from what Abramoff was doing that is "scandalous". These scandals go well beyond the Native American tribes and their issues -- Abramoff used funds from these tribes from CONTRACTS with Scanlon and his lobbying firm to fund other things -- like his personal contributions to (exclusively) GOP candidates and PACs.

To say that the scandal is about directing contributions to Congressmen -- when Abramoff arranged over $100,000 in contributions for Interior Secretary Gale Norton's "astroturf" PAC, the Council of Republican Environmental Advocacy, and that these contributions were arranged at Norton's behest while acting as Interior Secretary to fund a "survey" by CREA -- well, lets just say that the Abramoff scandal isn't "for the most part about Abramoff directing clients to pay Congressional members."

Its about buying influence with GOP public officials -- both elected and appointed.

The Post (and, apparently, you) have bought into the myth that this whole thing is about the corruption of congress --- when the reality is that Abramoff was heavily involved in corrupting the regulatory bureaucracy run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs out of Norton's Interior department.

Posted by: ami at January 20, 2006 9:18 AM | Permalink

I did a Q and A with Jim Brady and it will be up later today-- soon, I hope.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 20, 2006 11:33 AM | Permalink

Brady is also doing a live chat on at noon....

Brady definitely deserves props for HIS willingness to address his critics...

its a shame that he gets blamed unfairly for the failure of the Washington Post to address legitimate criticism in a timely fashion...

Posted by: ami at January 20, 2006 11:48 AM | Permalink

the widely linked Bloomberg story which has been misread daily by a certain renowned blogger

Ron, is this the blogger that you mentioned on your site that played the race card?

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 20, 2006 11:59 AM | Permalink

New: Transparency at the Post: Q & A with Jim Brady of "I don't think there are many reporters who oppose thoughtful criticism of their work. What they oppose is being called vulgar names and assigned all sorts of evil motives by people who don't know them. That's not a dialogue, in my opinion, it's akin to shouting insults from a moving car."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 20, 2006 12:58 PM | Permalink

bush's jaw,

yes (and the same one namechecked in JR's latest post)

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at January 20, 2006 2:11 PM | Permalink

Ron, yup i figured that. only that blogger would say WaPo turned the tribes into criminals and that tribes are seen as "dupes" if they donated money to pols per Abramoff's direction. those kinds of leaps are known as connecting the dots in some corner of the blogosphere.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 20, 2006 8:59 PM | Permalink

same blogger played race card in reaction to latest post

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at January 20, 2006 11:36 PM | Permalink

Is anyone concerned that the ostensible cause for concern - The Post story on Abramoff and Howell's cheerleading for it, compounded by her mistatement - is becoming lost in the noise of the just and rightness of calling her names?

OK, that's a very long and awkward sentence. But there has been so much energy expended in justifying offensive characterizations and a seeming competition to come up with new ones.

I can't really blame Brady for CNN's repetition of Howell's blunder. CNN does a pretty good job of screwing things up all by themselves.

I just really wonder what anyone hopes comes from belaboring this topic. It's rapidly overtaking the issue which spawned it: the Wapo report.

But self-righteous anger and snappy insults are much more important, right?

Posted by: Dave McLemore at January 21, 2006 2:29 AM | Permalink

exaclty Dave. it's Abramoff and a Republican scandal stupid! why waste all the energy howling at the Post over Howell's column, any Howell column.

Posted by: bush's jaw at January 22, 2006 7:36 PM | Permalink

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